Bid to give business schools autonomy

May 24, 2002

Business schools should not be expected to prop up the rest of the university to which they are attached, says a report recently handed to the government.

It calls for dialogue between business school deans, vice-chancellors and the funding council to give more autonomy to the schools. Schools should be able to use their budgets to attract and retain the best staff, reinvest in their infrastructure and allow academics to keep more of their consultancy earnings to enable them to compete with the US.

It recommends that some business schools, particularly those with many graduate students, be separate from universities - Manchester and Cranfield were cited as examples.

The recommendations are part of the final report from the Council for Excellence in Management and Leadership, a government initiative to tackle poor UK productivity and ensure the UK has the managers and leaders of the future to match the world's best.

The council concludes that the money spent on management training in the public and private sectors often fails to achieve its full potential impact. The report suggests a 30-point strategy to improve the UK's performance.

The council, chaired by Sir Anthony Cleaver, chairman of UK e-Universities Worldwide, says that although the best UK business schools match the world's best, there is underperformance. "The quality of teaching, of management research and the effectiveness of knowledge transfer are all areas that need to be improved if we are to have the world-class, demand-led system we need to meet tomorrow's challenges."

The report says that despite a rise in academic and vocational management qualifications in the past 20 years, employers were dissatisfied with the skills they produced.

The report recommends a forum for business schools to meet their customers and understand their needs.

It criticises business schools for squeezing out work placements and projects as student numbers rise and faculty time is stretched. It calls on the Higher Education Funding Council for England to raise the funding band of business and management studies courses (at an overall cost of £125 million a year) to remedy this.

Steve Watson, chair of the Association of Business Schools, headed the business school advisory group for the report. He said, "The problem is business schools need to be more fleet of foot than a typical university."

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