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What is the Difference Between MBA and PGDM?


If you’ve recently decided to explore the possibility of getting an MBA, this is probably one of the peskiest questions you’re grappling with:

What’s the difference between MBA and PGDM and PGPx and Executive MBA and all the other million names there are?

Well, if you’re confused, we totally get it. Don’t worry, this article is being written specifically to explain this. In this article, we will discuss:

  1. The Birth of MBA
  2. Management Education in India
  3. MBA in India Today

This may sound like more than you signed up for. But, trust us, if you want a proper answer to your question, there’s no better way to truly understand it.

1. The Birth of MBA

Let’s start at the very beginning: the first MBA ever offered.

The world’s first MBA program was created and offered by Harvard University in as early as 1908. However, Harvard was not the first Business School in the world. That was the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1881, followed by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College in 1900.

Tuck was the first to offer the world’s first advanced degree in business. It was called the Master of Science in Commerce. The MS in Commerce was the predecessor of the MBA.

The popularity of the MBA grew exponentially over time.

More universities started offering MBAs and setting up separate Business Schools to provide various business programs and courses.

As a concept, specialized business education proliferated through American Colleges first. Surprisingly, it came to India and Pakistan before it was introduced in Europe.

2. MBA and PGDM in India

Xavier’s Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) was India’s first business school established in 1949, but it didn’t offer an MBA. Instead, India’s first MBA was offered by the Indian Institute of Social Welfare & Business Management (IISWBM), Kolkata in 1953.

Notably, the MBA degree was introduced in Europe four years after this via INSEAD, France in 1957.

What complicates matters is one rather problematic rule put in place by the AICTE:

An institution cannot award a Master’s degree unless it is affiliated to a University.

First of all, in case you don’t know this, the AICTE is the All India Council for Technical Education. It is the Central regulator of all technical education offered in the country. So, technically speaking, MBAs and all management and business programs fall within their purview.

Secondly, that rule probably sounds like the government being cumbersome just because it can do so. But there’s more to it than meets the eye. The rule is meant to help regulate the quality of degrees handed out in the country.

Whether that rule has helped maintain standards or not is an entirely different matter.

The point is, institutions like IIMs, in spite of being the country’s best institutions in management and business education, were not allowed to use the word ‘MBA’ since that is a Master’s degree and IIMs are not affiliated to Universities.

That is where the problem began.

Institutions affiliated to Universities started offering MBAs. In the meanwhile, IIMs and other independent institutions simply took on other names for their advanced business education programs.

The first in a series of new business and management degrees to be offered in the country was the PostGraduate Diploma in Management, shortened to PGDM. This was soon followed by the PostGraduate Diploma in Business Administration, commonly known as the PGDBA.

Now, the differences between MBA and PGDM or PGDBA are:

  1. MBAs are postgraduate Master’s degrees whereas PGDM and PGDBA are both diplomas.
  2. MBAs have accreditation from the AICTE while the diplomas don’t.
  3. MBAs are likely to be regulated by University bodies while PGDMs and PGDBAs are regulated independently by the institutions offering them.
  4. MBAs need you to have a few years of work experience to get in. The diplomas can be completed immediately after graduating.

On the whole, the key takeaway for you should be that the caliber of an MBA depends on the University but the quality of a PGDM and a PGDBA depends on the institution offering it.

We wish it was as simple as MBA vs. PGDM/PGDBA but there’s actually a lot more to it than these three terms. Let’s take a look at that in the next part of this article.

3. Business Education Terminology in India

The scenario started to become more and more complicated with every new entrant into the advanced business education field.

1. PGPx – IIM Ahmedabad

An interesting turn of events took place when IIM Ahmedabad introduced the PGPx.

IIM-A’s PGPx is a full-time mid-career program designed for working professionals, with the ‘x’ representing the word ‘executive’. As mentioned, taking a break from full-time work for higher education was not a concept in India, but this course changed that.

On the terminology front, though, this program created a problem.

Since it was being offered by the nation’s best institution, it came to be known as an executive MBA. A series of B-Schools offering MBAs went on to create ‘executive MBA’ programs modeled on IIM-A’s PGPx.

But the problem is this:

Anywhere else in the world, you’ll find that an executive MBA is a part-time program designed for people who want to continue working while pursuing higher education.

So, IIM-A’s PGPx is the reason we’re left with this confusion about whether an executive MBA is a full-time program or a part-time one.

To clarify, an executive MBA typically is a one-year full-time course in India and the same thing is a two-year part-time course everywhere else.


With the establishment of the Indian School of Business (ISB) in 2001, there came the PostGraduate Program (PGP) in management. In a strict sense, this PGP is neither a Master’s degree nor is it a diploma.

ISB’s PGP is simply a certificate that doesn’t have AICTE accreditation.

It is worth noting that there is no MBA program in the country that carries more weight than the ‘certificate programs’ and ‘diplomas’ offered by independent institutions like ISB and IIM-A.

Adding to the mass of available options and therefore complicating the scenario even further, IIM Bangalore introduced the EPGP and IIM Calcutta, the PGPEX.

To simplify this for you, both these programs are just one-year full-time executive MBAs that cannot be called MBAs since they’re offered by IIMs.

As if there wasn’t enough confusion already, IIM Lucknow went ahead to introduce the International Programme in Management for Executives (IPMX). Once again, this is nothing but an executive MBA with yet another name.

The same applies to the General Management Program (GMP) offered by the Xavier’s Labour Relations Institute (XLRI) in Jamshedpur.

Recent developments have brought some hope as far as clearing up this mess goes. The Parliament of India passed the IIM Act in December 2018, giving IIMs the right to offer Masters degree courses.

Whether the IIMs choose to offer official MBAs or continue to offer the various programs they currently do, remains to be seen.

We hope that this article has helped you figure out the difference between MBA and PDGM as well as the zillion other available options.

Do let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.