There’s no shame in a business background

April 17, 2014

Would Vernon Bogdanor be as dismissive of his own field of government as he is of my fields of business and management when specifying the most important qualities required in a vice-chancellor (“Top traits: what are the most important qualities in a vice-chancellor?”, Features, 10 April)?

His views are contradictory in that he argues, on the one hand, that a vice-chancellor should be “someone of high academic achievement”, but that “anyone with a business background, or expertise in ‘management’ or ‘leadership’ should be automatically disqualified”. Is he not aware of the excellent business schools and schools of management that exist in universities worldwide, and which include in their ranks scholars of high academic achievement who understand the essence of teaching, learning and scholarship? Has he no insight into ways in which academic excellence in business or management can be of value in carrying out the duties of a vice-chancellor?

Given that “business” generates a nation’s wealth, from which universities are resourced, and “management” focuses on understanding how the effectiveness of organisations, including universities, might be enhanced, these are fields as worthy of intellectual enquiry as any other. What a contrast there is between Bogdanor’s ill-informed dismissiveness of “business” and “management” and the views of the other contributors, who resist recommending such a negative attitude towards any specific academic discipline.

Perhaps another prejudice might be invoked: anyone actively seeking to become a vice-chancellor should be barred from being considered for such an appointment.

Richard M. S. Wilson
Emeritus professor of business administration and financial management
Loughborough University

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