Business schools too busy to boost UK economy

Recruiting overseas students is the priority rather than UK growth and innovation

May 23, 2013

Business schools are too focused on attracting large numbers of international students for financial reasons to concentrate on boosting economic growth in the UK, according to a new report.

The Association of Business Schools has argued that the institutions are subject to incentives that limit their effect on British companies and has called on the government to increase the impact weighting for business research in the upcoming 2014 research excellence framework.

The Role of UK Business Schools in Driving Innovation and Growth in the Domestic Economy, released on 21 May, argues that too few academics have experience of real-world business partly because “almost all rewards and incentives are geared towards publishing in select top academic journals”.

Promotion criteria are set at the university level, the report notes, so institutions need to allow business schools greater leeway to promote staff on the basis of more than just their research record.

The REF impact weighting for business and management research should be “much higher than for many other disciplines, because the value and potential for productive engagement outside academia is so great”, it adds.

Another reason that business schools do not prioritise the UK economy’s needs as much as they should is that there are “financial incentives” to attract students, “often in large numbers, and often from overseas, who can be taught in large, formal classes”.

The fee income from these students “underpins the economic stability of the schools and contributes financially to their partner universities”, the report says.

It also finds that “a common complaint is that businesses find business schools hard to navigate and unresponsive in their communications”.

The report was written by Richard Thorpe, pro-dean for research and professor in management development at Leeds University Business School, and Richard Rawlinson, a partner in the management consultancy Booz & Company.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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