Corporate unis threaten MBAs

March 21, 1997

THE "Corporate University" poses an "outside threat" to higher education and brings "attendant risks and large unknowns", warns the Association of Business Schools.

In its oral evidence to Sir Ron Dearing's inquiry into higher education last month the ABS said: "The ingress of major world corporations into the education sector is already under way with Disney 'edutainment centres'. And the development of 'corporate universities', as evidenced in the United States, is a clear threat to current university paradigms and existing market shares domestically."

The "international standing" of British higher education, the ABS fears, is at risk from the "hi-tech media-based world universities".

Last week, British Aerospace chief executive Sir Dick Evans strayed from his brief at an industry meeting in London to attack higher education output, rekindling speculation about a BAe "virtual university".

BAe, said Sir Dick, had started recruiting from abroad because the pool of British graduates was not good enough. The Engineering Employers Federation has warned of skills shortages, and BAe is considering taking the training of its engineers into its own hands.

But Roly Cockman, chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters, argues that the corporate university is more of a threat to the postgraduate MBA market than to the traditional degree.

Next week, British Airports Authority (BAA) will offer its staff a tailor-made corporate MBA. The BAA MBA, the world's first in airport management, will be offered in conjunction with the University of Surrey and will be delivered to BAA employers over the Internet. BAA joins the ranks of British Telecom, the BBC and British Airways in offering tailored in-house MBAs.

Chris Greensted, director of Strathclyde Graduate Business School and chairman of the ABS, sees the trend continuing: "It can be good for your reputation to develop a programme with a company, and it's all part of the revenue generation universities have to do."

But there, said Professor Greensted, also lies the rub. "Many corporate MBAs are understandably done in the culture and context of one company alone. Such a mono-culture and mono-function is too narrow compared to what one would expect from an open MBA."

Leader, page 11

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