London business schools ‘face post-Brexit turbulence’

Capital’s institutions may be hit by a ‘perfect storm’, warn scholars

February 12, 2017
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London’s “invisible” but highly successful “jungle” of business schools could be hit hard by a “double whammy” of Brexit and regulatory reforms, experts have warned.

While London’s position as the world’s financial centre has been well documented, the UK capital is less well known for being the leading global centre for business education, with more than 150 providers offering business courses or internships, says a new study by UK and Finnish researchers.

That ecosystem, which includes at least 45 business schools and 45 alternative providers of business education who can sponsor student visas, is now facing a “perfect storm” caused by “hypercompetition and policy reforms”, according to the paper by Julie Davies, of the University of Huddersfield, and Finnish researchers Kimmo Alajoutsijarvi and Kerttu Kettunen, of the University of Jyväskylä and the Turku School of Economics, respectively. The paper was published recently in the European Foundation for Management Development’s magazine Global Focus.

Among the chief threats to smaller business schools are the potential limiting of access to student loans following the creation of the new regulator, the Office for Students, and possible plans to link student visa status to institutions’ performance in the new teaching excellence framework, say the authors.

“There are confusing signals [as] the UK government is encouraging new entrants while at the same time clamping down on the student visas to reduce immigration numbers,” the paper adds.

The interests of London business schools are also seldom considered by ministers given their relatively low profile, despite accounting for a significant proportion of the capital’s 400,000 students, the paper adds.

“Even within London, business schools do not seem to be in touch with Members of Parliament in Westminster,” the paper says, adding that “instead, politicians are focused on economics, science and technology to boost the economy”.

Arguing that there is a “blind spot” regarding business schools in London, it says that they “contribute important export revenue yet they are largely invisible in the public domain at home”.

This could be explained by the “jungle” nature of the capital’s business school sector, the researchers suggest. Providers, which range from four triple-accredited business schools (Cass, ESCP, Imperial College Business School and London Business School) to regional universities with London campuses (the universities of Newcastle, Loughborough and Warwick) and smaller private providers, such as the Business School of London, often have little in common and therefore do not lobby as effectively as they could, the paper says

“The British business school industry scores massively abroad because of high numbers of overseas students and branch campuses, [but] at home this is not the case,” the paper argues.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Dr Davies said London’s business schools industry is a little-noticed “jewel in the crown” of the UK’s education export market.

“No other city in the world approaches London for the number and diversity of business schools,” Dr Davies said, adding that ministers should “not be snooty” about alternative providers who often provided good opportunities for both domestic and international students.

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