Business schools face jobs crisis

July 5, 2002

A surfeit of over-50s staff is storing up trouble for business, management and accountancy in universities. Business schools fear that mass retirement, coupled with a growing reliance on contract and part-time teaching staff, could soon lead to a fall in quality.

The concern about recruiting and retaining staff is revealed in a survey for the Business Education Support Team, part of the Learning and Teaching Support Network. The Open University Business School looked at 40 business schools and departments for its report Managing Better: UK Business Schools Today and Tomorrow .

Keith Fletcher, director of Best, said: "Many university budgets are kept afloat by their business schools. If quality declines because of staff shortages, and fewer overseas students apply, it could have a serious impact on invisible earnings."

The number of undergraduate and postgraduate students on business, management and accountancy courses in the UK rose 9.2 per cent from 158,843 to 173,522 between 1994-95 and 1999- 2000. But as the subject also feeds into courses such as engineering or hospitality, the combined honours numbers are higher. The number of staff grew about 11 per cent, from 8,082 to 8,979, during the same five-year period.

E-learning is seen as the answer to many of the problems related to teaching and learning pinpointed in the survey, but it was here that international competition was fiercest, with private-sector providers, university offshoots and partnerships, such as Universitas 21, Scottish Knowledge and Fathom vying for students.

Other issues included curriculum, teaching and assessment, quality assurance, funding, changing student attitudes and improving skills. When asked their top three "elevator" pitches - points they would make to ministers or chairs of governors if they had three minutes in a lift with them - there was near unanimity in requesting more resources, in one case to enable them to fix the lift.


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