The new vice-president of a major international business school accreditation organisation has warned that Brexit could cause “irreparable” damage to UK business education and that there needs to be an “awful lot” of discussion to ensure it is avoided.
Rebecca Taylor, who became vice-president (academic) of the European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) in June, said UK business schools were held in “real esteem” internationally, and many rely on international students coming to the UK. She added there was a benefit both across the UK and internationally for students to have the opportunity to “build up their leadership skills through studying in different countries”.
Professor Taylor made the comments in relation to her enthusiasm for using “informal” online education – massive open online courses and other free open resources – to broaden business education, and she speculated about whether Brexit might lead to a greater move towards this kind of provision. Although she does not think online learning will replace “face-to-face” education, she believes that using the “informal space” can enhance schools’ offering.
“One of the areas I hope to work on in [my] EFMD [role] is using it to bring disciplines together,” she said.
“Around employability, it’s a fantastic area to explore, [for example] bringing business and management skills into, say, the creative industries. It’s been hard to get that connection as effectively as possible. You can make Moocs that bring the two areas together.”
Professor Taylor, who is executive dean and professor of economics at the Open University’s business school, said she was keen to use her prior experience of online education, given the OU’s distance learning history and its FutureLearn platform, to develop accreditation standards for these courses.
Although the EFMD assesses business schools holistically through its EQUIS accreditation, which covers degree programmes, research activity, e-learning and more, Professor Taylor said there was no certification for Moocs or badged open courses (free courses that allow students to return to them at any time to refresh their knowledge). This raises doubts around their “standards of delivery”, she said.
“Where we talk about peer review and continuous improvement, which demonstrates quality across business and management education, we have this whole informal space we’re not touching,” she said. “One [EFMD response] is the European Online Course Certification System (EOCCS). [We] developed a set of standards, and spent a year putting those standards in place.
“That’s a real step forward because it’s an area they haven’t been in before. People are very uncertain as to how to engage with the informal space – can they trust it? This is a way to give it a kitemark, to say this programme is of a standard that the EFMD has recognised. I think that’s very powerful.”
Professor Taylor added that the benefits of “informal” online education are not restricted by national borders, and online content could enhance relationships between international universities.
“Where [online education] provides additional opportunity is in partnership,” she said.
She added that universities working with each other for online courses could help students “to really understand some of the cross-cultural differences” that exist across borders.