High cost of assessment

October 18, 1996

THE Research Assessment Exercise is having a damagingly distorting effect on university business schools, says a report on the management education sector.

The 1996 Survey on Learning Methods in UK Business Schools, compiled by consultant Paddy FitzGerald for the Foundation for Management Education, found a sector lacking a coherent vision of its own future and transfixed by short-term worries about government funding.

The report says: "It is ironic that the publicly-funded schools who might be thought of as having a buffer to allow their visions to be pursued are the ones which have allowed themselves to be driven by the search for funding council money and the internal politics of their organisations which are driving them away from the immediacy of the needs of their vocational worlds."

Dr Fitzgerald, formerly dean of business at Brighton Polytechnic and a member of several Council for National Academic Awards committees, said a management culture which emphasised government funding was compounded by the absence of journals which would provide an outlet for research bridging theory and practice. He said: "There is a hole in the market. People who want to publish are driven towards the theoretical end of the spectrum."

Many private institutions were little better: "They are followers rather than leaders and do not feel under any pressure to, for instance, go in for more advanced forms of technology."

The survey, based on questionnaire responses from 36 institutions, found that many institutions, while recognising changing expectations from employers and participants, had struggled to adapt to these demands or prepare staff for them.

Several schools were hampered in the introduction of new learning methods by staff fears that they would be used to reduce staffing. Only two had conducted exercises aimed at altering staff attitudes.

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