Business Schools face potential ruin as "corporate universities" poach academics on individual contracts and shun institutions, the Association of Business Schools has warned.
Speaking to The THES after the ABS conference on "corporate universities", chairman Chris Greensted said the growing phenomenon of in-house company education provision posed serious dangers as well as opportunities.
"One very large corporate 'university' has a director of human resources who takes the view that it is better to contract with individual academics than to contract with the institutions," he said.
The ABS has warned members that this "could be very detrimental to the sector". "If these corporate universities continue to grow," Professor Greensted said, "business schools will lose out, as the companies work in direct competition with universities."
He said it was easy to see how the staff-poaching could become endemic. "It is good for the company as it can pick whichever academics it likes and it will not cost as much as contracting with the institution. And it is good for the individual academics, who get the exposure, a new audience, and a personal fee."
Professor Greensted said he was reassured that the flagship British Aerospace Virtual University, whose vice-chancellor Geraldine Kenney-Wallace addressed the ABS, would be contracting directly with universities.
"BAe intends to work with business schools," he said. "That is a much better deal. They will get institutional support and quality control. It is a lot more ethical and reasonable."
He appealed to business schools to embrace the challenge. "I am in favour of the corporate university," he said. "It is a very good thing if it recognises the relevance of higher education to industry. Our relevance to the workforce must be recognised."