Policymakers have ‘cynicism’ for UK business schools, says dean

Chair of Chartered Association of Business Schools questions government’s STEM focus when it comes to research funding

March 16, 2016
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The chair of the representative body of UK business schools believes there is a “cynicism” among policymakers about business and management fields that has resulted in dwindling research funding.

Simon Collinson, chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) and dean of the University of Birmingham’s business school, added that the UK government was “missing a trick” in its funding of applied impactful research by ignoring business and management academics and focusing too much on science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

“Innovation is not just about spending money on science and big kit; you need to understand consumer adoption, the markets for low-carbon futures [and so on.]

“We see ourselves as having the potential to do things that policymakers would like to see happen, but funding into business and management is pretty limited from government and declining,” he told Times Higher Education.

“I don’t know the precise answer [for the lack of research funding] except there is a slight cynicism about British business schools, maybe, among some policymakers.”

He added that in his view the government was still not “recognising the scale of business schools and the significance of them as places that are already doing research that is relevant, engages users, crosses this bridge between blue-sky academic thinking and applied, purposeful, useful stuff”.

“The government is missing a trick by not focusing a bit of their attention on using business schools to enhance their agenda around applied, impactful research.”

Professor Collinson was speaking as CABS released a report on research income for business and management at its annual research conference.

According to the data, research income for business and management decreased by almost 8.5 per cent overall between 2010-11 and 2013-14. Within that, funding from “UK central government bodies/local authorities, health and hospital authorities” fell by 36.1 per cent in the same period, a drop of more than £7.3 million. UK industry is also funding less research in this field, down by more than 35 per cent in the same period.

Professor Collinson suggested that policymakers and industry sometimes questioned the “credibility” of management research, although he noted that business secretary Sajid Javid “was really very positive about business schools and positive about UK management training”. Professor Collinson added that the government could provide more resources from the ring-fenced science funding for business schools’ research.

“The MRC [Medical Research Council], EPSRC [Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council] plus Innovate UK put large Catalyst funding into advanced manufacturing or materials, so in a sense, why not include management in that,” he said.

“Letting the sciences lead on innovation is the wrong thing to do; they lead on invention. Getting management included in that, they can look at…the human side.”

john.elmes@tesglobal.com

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