Serve business? What about the big issues?

July 22, 2010

Boredom and lack of interest are conveyed by the faces and body posture of students in the photograph accompanying your article on business schools ("Voices of experience", 15 July). The article itself suggests that the mission of such schools is to serve business. Is there a connection between this self-serving mission and students' lack of engagement?

Business school curricula frequently fail to engage students, but this is not (just) because "the problems of hard-pressed commercial managers" are overlooked. Rather, it is because the curricula are often anodyne and much of the "research" closely resembles consultancy coated with a scientistic gloss.

Students are stupefied when curricula lack relevance to the huge problems facing their generation - unsustainability, global warming and mounting inequality - to which the reckless expansion of business has been a major contributor.

Business schools must take a far more robust, relevant and critical approach that attends head-on to these big issues, including industry's public accountability, or lack of it. Maybe then their students will "sit up" and demand research and teaching that merits the epithet "real-world relevance".

Hugh Willmott, Cardiff Business School.

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