The place of culture in offering holistic experiences

Here are multiple falling books in a closed pale green room. Business Impact article on the place of culture in offering holistic experiences.

UPF Barcelona School of Management’s Dean, Oriol Amat, and its Director of International Relations and Accreditations, Jordi Rey, discuss the importance the School places in culture and the humanities

Since the School was founded in 1993, UPF-BSM has worked to build international partnerships and networks – but equally, it has focused on building social responsibility and culture, notably by encouraging its students to study classical literature as part of their MBA studies. 

This interview with Oriol Amat, Dean of UPF-BSM and its Director of International Relations and Accreditations, Jordi Rey, seeks to find out how the School nurtures an appreciation of the humanities and how this can widen the perspectives of tomorrow’s business leaders.  

What do you think differentiates UPF Barcelona School of Management?

Oriol Amat (OA): Our School is focused on ‘management’, rather than just ‘business’. This means that apart from typical business programmes, our portfolio includes programmes and research related to public management, health management and cultural organisations, among other subject areas. 

The School also has a strong commitment to culture and the humanities – all students and programmes have some activities and courses related to culture and the humanities as well as to social responsibility and ethics. Finally, in alignment with the wider Pompeu Fabra University’s objective of generating and transmitting new knowledge about the concept of ‘planetary wellbeing’, UPF-BSM thinks that leaders must be prepared with a global vision and social commitment in a public-private setting. These competencies will be necessary to cope with the challenges that we are going to face in the coming years to improve people, organisations, countries, and the planet. 

Accreditation plays a crucial role in ensuring the implementation of our value proposition and having our organisational management systems ready to overcome any unexpected challenges. AMBA, for example, will help us to have our EMBA and MSc in management programmes more prepared for the current global challenges, and those which are yet to come. 

UPF-BSM is renowned for having a strong focus on humanities and culture. How would you define ‘culture’ and how does the School cultivate this? 

OA: ‘Culture’ is a way of life – it encompasses knowledge, arts, laws, beliefs, capabilities, and the customs of a society. As French author, André Maurois, said: ‘Culture is what remains after having forgotten what was learned.’ 

The humanities and culture are present in all of the School’s activities that take place during an academic year: programmes, research, publications, and events. To give an example of the cultural dimension’s importance at UPF-BSM, each year we give a classic piece of literature as a Christmas present to all students, faculty and staff – The Tempest by William Shakespeare this year, The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli last year, Candide by Voltaire two years ago. UPF-BSM also has a blog, ‘Micromégas’, that is named after the Voltaire novella and which is devoted to culture.

You’re keen for students to understand and appreciate classic literature – why is this important in aspiring business leader?

OA: Good leaders read a lot, and we feel that there is a lot to learn in classic literature. Reading the classics provides a lot of perspectives that allow a person to better understand other people (co-workers, managers, customers, suppliers, bankers, trade unions, and so on) and to gain a broader outlook, empathy and assertiveness. Another outcome of reading is that leaders improve their communication skills.

What are the biggest challenges facing international Business Schools?

Jordi Rey (JR): I foresee two types of challenges for Business Schools. The first type is about facing what we already know. The second type is about being prepared for what it is to come, but that is as yet unknown. The first type requires evolving our organisations and becoming ready to take advantage of the opportunities brought by global challenges, like the pandemic. 

For Business Schools, not travelling that much and the remote working, or remote learning, is breaking some physical barriers and helping us to become more global and more digital than ever before. We need to take advantage of distance learning, e-commerce, digital transformation, health management or supply chain management – all these areas where Schools have new opportunities. 

This requires agility – something that is also related to the second type of challenge. If you do not know what is coming next but are prepared to respond quickly to new challenges, you will keep a competitive advantage, whatever your industry. 

To overcome these two types of challenges, it’s important to have an external view of what your Business School does. External evaluations help institutions to benchmark internationally with best practices. They also strengthen the School leadership, foster a global mindset and define better processes [that can result in] having a faster decision-making organisation. 

Finally, it is important that Schools act as role models and inspire companies for a continuous transformation context where change management seems to be the new normal. 

The business education arena – like the business world – is being disrupted as never before by globalisation and rapid technological change. What innovations are being developed at your School to future-proof its postgraduate business programmes? 

OA: We are developing a more flexible educational model where students will be able to learn strategic and operational competencies with some special components, like culture or humanities.

Our portfolio is being simplified to have fewer programmes but more tracks, this ensures that the education is more adapted to the profile and needs of every student. 

Our programmes are considering new modalities where face-to-face, online or hybrid forms are becoming more integrated, with new methodologies like flipped learning being introduced. Some innovations are also being developed to teach and assess soft skills in a distance setting. 

Our learning experience is becoming more global with a more flexible approach: study trips, mobility abroad, visiting professors, COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) initiatives or double degrees are options to provide this additional global perspective of management. 

Social commitment, ethics, culture, and innovation are components that are being increasingly embedded in our programmes to prepare future leaders who will overcome the global challenges that the planet is facing. All the transformations in our portfolio are necessary to be more sensitive to planetary wellbeing. 

Do you think the business education sector, as a whole, is responding quickly enough to this disruption?

JR: The business education sector is responding fast, but transformation process outcomes depend on the starting point of each institution. 

Unfortunately, not all Schools are prepared for a distance learning setting, for example. At the same time, not all regions in the world have the best facilities to provide a high quality of distance teaching. 

However, Schools that have similar facilities are competing in a global context where the quality of the learning experience can be the same no matter where you are delivering the content from. 

The higher education sector as a whole is becoming more and more competitive. In addition, new content providers are now playing a role. The options are becoming more open and if you want to keep your competitive advantage, it is also important to provide additional added value through high-quality professional career services, student tutoring, networking, and alumni services. Because of this, Business Schools need to go beyond the traditional lecture and offer a more holistic experience in the new digital student journey. 

How is technology continuing to impact on the Business School environment? How important is it that Business Schools are ahead of the curve here and what more could, and should, they be doing?

JR: Business Schools play a leading role in our society where public and private initiatives might want to meet and develop innovations in a controlled setting. Business leaders are being prepared in our Business Schools, which means that if we want to infuse technological innovations in organisational management systems, School operations should also be digital and ahead of the curve. We need to walk the talk. 

We can also offer room for new tech-based startup platforms in our institutions where people can find the right talent and resources to develop these types of innovative solutions. In addition, Business Schools have the opportunity to open the spectrum and work with institutions from other disciplines – for example, those in engineering or the humanities – to prepare more holistic and digital leaders. 

Do you think there is a reluctance on the part of Business Schools to introduce too much change into their programmes? 

JR: All Business Schools want to keep their identity and, at the same time, a good position in the higher education industry. The need for change depends on the position of a School’s brand and how the School is perceived in international markets. 

Change is good but radical change for [the sake of] change might not make sense if there is no need to. On average, the perception is that incremental change is more welcome than radical change. Change in this sense may centre on the continuous improvement of what is already working and on implementing focused disruption in relation to specific programmes that need to be revamped. 

Nevertheless, the highest-ranking universities and Business Schools are invited to create trends and introduce innovations in their programmes to keep their leading position. If they do not, a School’s value proposition can become out of date in the long run. 

Students care about sustainability and climate change. How important do you think sustainability is, and in what ways has your Business School adapted this into its programmes? 

OA: Sustainability and climate change are directly related to planetary wellbeing, to which UPF-BSM is fully committed. This is a commitment to improving the quality of life for people, organisations, countries, and the planet itself. 

Our programmes also include ethics as a transversal and core component. It means that every student is equipped with a sensitivity to help the planet become more sustainable in the long run. 

What do you think ‘sustainable leadership’ looks like?

OA: In 1970, Milton Friedman (winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976) said the unique social responsibility of a company was generating economic wealth for its shareholders. Today, this is not acceptable, and companies must generate value in three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. Today’s leaders must care not only about its shareholders, but also all other stakeholders, the public and the planet.

What are the next steps for yourselves as Business School leaders?

JR: Our next steps are to keep working with our colleagues to create added value for the AMBA network through our contributions and help our students to become better people and better professionals. 

OA: The School is proud to be part of the AMBA & BGA family and we expect to help our institution to become a world-class School of Management, in line with the reputation of Pompeu Fabra University. The final outcome in this is to generate scientific and social impact in our society, in order to generate more wellbeing. 

Do you feel optimistic about the future of business, Business Schools, and the economy?

OA: We are still suffering from the Covid-19 crisis, but because of the effectiveness of the vaccines, it is now possible to see the end of this crisis. I think that by the end of this year, there will be a great economic recovery at the global level. In the case of Europe, a full recovery will be a reality in some countries, especially in central and northern Europe. In the case of southern Europe, it is possible that the recovery will arrive a bit later, in 2022 or 2023. This will have consequences for Business Schools. 

I have seen the evolution of Business Schools in the past decades and the sector has grown both in years of economic expansion and in years of recession. During recessions, companies reduce the budget for education, but individuals invest more in their education as a strategy to face the crisis. All things considered, I feel very optimistic about the future. 

JR: The future is unknown, but it is also a place to be created. Right now, business, Business Schools and the economy are going through another wave of transformation like the industrial revolution. At that time, artisans had to reinvent themselves and now we are also facing a moment of overall change. It is about adaptability and capacity for change. It is all about evolution.

Oriol Amat is Dean of UPF Barcelona School of Management, Pompeu Fabra University (UPF-BSM) and Full Professor of Financial Economics and Accounting at Pompeu Fabra University.

Jordi Rey is Director of International Relations and Accreditations at UPF Barcelona School of Management, Pompeu Fabra University (UPF-BSM), where his role focuses on the School’s accreditation and internationalisation strategy.

This article was originally published in Ambition (the magazine of BGA’s sister organisation, AMBA).

Strategic Business School partnerships

Two diverse hands are shaking. One hand has a long white sleeve, and the other has a silver bracelet with a black shirt sleeve—Symbolic to partnerships and diversity. Business Impact article on Strategic Business School partnerships.

Representatives from AccorHotels, Telefónica and Blue Prism offer advice and insights on the best way to forge mutually beneficial relationships between the worlds of business education and industry 

Business Schools’ links with the corporate world enhance action learning, recruitment, strategic alignment, and collective innovation. Arguably, in a business market defined by disruption and uncertainty, such forms of collaboration between business education and industry have never been more important. But Schools face mounting challenges in terms of understanding needs and expectations, and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships.

With this in mind, a session at the AMBA & BGA Festival of Excellence brought together a panel of experts to discuss the benefits of partnerships and how to ensure that ‘win-win’ situations are achieved. 

Steef van de Velde, Board Member and Chair of AMBA & BGA’s International Accreditation Advisory Board (IAAB) and Professor of Operations and Management at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM), explained: ‘Corporate partnerships are crucial for Business Schools. It’s clear that many of our faculty have personal relationships with executives in corporations for, say, research, teaching, or case writing. But often, Schools might like to institutionalise these relationships for the longer term and leverage those relationships for internship recruitment, projects, executive education, or other purposes. 

‘Very often, the expectations from Business Schools are clear, but what about the expectations from our counterparts from corporations?’

Alignment and approach 

Jon ‘Jet’ Theuerkauf, Chief Customer Strategy and Transformation Officer at Blue Prism, outlined some facets they were looking for from Schools: ‘When we speak with Schools, it’s really important that what we are able to convey to them is taken seriously because we are in the market and working with more than 2,000 major organisations and their customers. So, we understand what the needs [of these organisations] are going to be and we can see where trends are coming from. 

‘We believe that when we’re speaking to institutions and making recommendations to them, that they are building [this] into every student’s curriculum and gaining an understanding of evolving technologies. When we look for partnerships, we’re looking for Schools and institutions with which we feel an alignment because they’ve recognised that the world is evolving and that change is being pressed onto us at a speed unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.’

Picking up on this theme, Ralitza Iordanova, Director of Global Partnerships and Luxury Brands at AccorHotels – which is responsible for hospitality brands including Mondrian, Raffles, Orient Express, and Banyan Tree – added: ‘From an organisational standpoint, in my experience, we have typically been the ones approaching Business Schools versus the other way around and I think a couple of key things come into play – the values behind a School and innovation – being able to adapt quickly to the current marketplace. 

‘A perfect example is the current Covid-19 context. The hospitality sector is in a situation where we have an excess of global talent available in the marketplace,’ she continued pointing out that 70% of people in the sector have either been furloughed, made redundant, or are on temporary leave. ‘There are a number of different scenarios, but for maybe a year or two years, this talent will be sitting in the marketplace – not necessarily engaged because no one is hiring – and it’s extremely difficult. 

‘The big opportunity – both from an organisational standpoint and for Schools – is looking at the approach to partnerships. There are other areas that come into play, such as geography, rankings and so on, but I think [good partnerships are based on the level of] collaboration with which the Business School wants to come to the table, to co-create new programming and new kinds of innovation together, to attract talent and then to develop existing talent. 

‘Ideally, we should be doing this on an ongoing basis, and it shouldn’t take a crisis to get us in shape for that, but [the key is] what kind of a mindset the leaders behind a Business School come to the table with, and how they’re willing to shape and work with organisations to make something impactful beyond the typical access to talent of interviews, apprenticeships and databases.’

Getting the full picture

Antonio Schuh, Director of Partnerships at Telefónica, also had some words of advice for Schools wishing to build relationships with corporates, based on his experience: ‘To create something relevant for both organisations involved, it’s important for a strategic relationship to be at a higher level with a broad base. Then, you should make an effort to gain the full picture and identify the people that need to be consulted – even if informally,’ he said.  

‘By having the full picture, you will develop more opportunities to understand what’s going on on the other side [of the partnership]. I’m talking from experience because it took a long time for us to structure our partnerships at Telefonica. We have dealings with other telecoms companies, and [together] we have built thousands of [initiatives] – for example, international roaming, or wholesale joint presence in communities for inter-standardisation technologies. This can be super complex but once you have a clear picture of the multiple activities that you’re both working on, this can indicate a pattern and an intention, and this will put you in a much stronger position to use that information
and do something productive.’

Chair: Steef van de Velde, Board Member and Chair of the International Accreditation Advisory Board (IAAB), AMBA & BGA; Professor of Operations and Management, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) 

Panellists: Ralitza Iordanova, Director of Global Partnerships and Luxury Brands, AccorHotels; Antonio Schuh, Director of Partnerships, Telefónica; Jon ‘Jet’ Theuerkauf, Chief Customer Strategy and Transformation Officer, Blue Prism

This article was originally published in Ambition (the magazine of BGA’s sister organisation, AMBA).

Increasing the reach and reputation of quality management education in Asia

Front cover of the Business Impact Magazine, featured article on Increasing the reach and reputation of quality management education in Asia. The image is of a Japanese nature-inspired artwork with red leaves, white clouds, teal trees, and grey mountains.

Tim Desmond and Ken Ozawa tell Tim Banerjee Dhoul how NUCB Business School is working to improve teaching quality among Business Schools in Asia by promoting the value of the case method and increasing the availability of high-quality cases in the region

With campuses in Nagoya, Osaka and Tokyo – Japan’s three largest metropolitan areas –  NUCB Business School (NUCB) is well positioned to take a lead in the country’s provision of management education.  

A strong proponent of the case method, the Nagoya-headquartered School is now also Japan’s principal provider of quality case studies from around the world, having recently stepped in to save the Case Center Japan from administration. In this exclusive interview with Business Impact, Tim Desmond, Senior Advisor and Project Manager, and Ken Ozawa, Accreditation and Institutional Research Manager, discuss NUCB’s plans to use this acquisition to help raise standards of teaching and learning materials, both in Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

Why is management education important in your country? What is the value it brings to the community you serve? 

Traditionally, companies in Japan have prided themselves on offering lifetime employment, training those in management through inhouse programmes – having an MBA was frowned on by Japanese companies. However as the wave of globalisation took hold, Japan found itself in a precarious position due to a shortage of talented workers and an ever-declining birth rate. By 2025, for example, it is estimated that more than 2.4 million companies in Japan will have leaders that are, on average, over 70 years old. Since many of these companies will be unable to find adequate successors, it is expected that most will either suspend or cease operations entirely.

Although we live in a time when companies are producing more and more new products and services in response to consumer demands, Japan – despite its advanced technological capabilities – unfortunately lags behind much of the world in its capacity to start new businesses or embrace the entrepreneurial movement.

NUCB Business School recognises the dilemmas and challenges facing Japan. The School has been one of the main institutions to support the Japan Society for Business Succession (JSBS) to conduct and publish joint research and education, which will contribute to rectifying the family business succession situation in Japan. The School has also partnered with the Aichi Prefectural Association of Credit Unions, which comprises 15 regional banks, to organise special courses and workshops that work to strengthen the foundations of small companies and pass on techniques for the long-term growth of companies.

How healthy is the current market for business education in Japan and the surrounding region?

While Japan may have a somewhat rigid and inflexible corporate culture, our analysis reveals a relatively bright future for Business School graduates. We base this analysis on the following trends:

• The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has promoted the need to develop professionals with advanced specialised skills for working the global economy.

• The shift from domestic to overseas operations and the participation of non-Japanese staff in management has been increasing.

• A strong command of new management concepts and skills has become requisite for many managers.

Often, one will find that the core executive members in Japanese companies are typically graduates of a handful of prestigious Business Schools, based either in Japan or overseas. In this respect, Japanese universities have been slow, compared to the west, to establish Business Schools. As a result, NUCB’s use of the case method and accreditation are rather unique for higher education in Japan. 

What do you think makes your portfolio of programmes stand out from others that are available in the country headquarters of your School and the surrounding region?

Recently, two universities in the region terminated their MBA programmes due to declining enrolments. While competition with NUCB is one possible cause, it is important to underscore that the School is a standalone institution with a singular focus on management education. 

NUCB was the first Business School [in Japan] to offer a part-time, weekend MBA programme – Japanese companies expect workers to fully commit themselves to the office on weekdays. More importantly, the School is adept at recognising and adding unique programmes that are essential to the various business sectors, such as in healthcare and taxation, as well as a Global MBA taught in English. In line with the School’s focus on practical knowledge, great use is made of NUCB Business School’s expansive stock of real-world business case studies. All courses employ the case method using the most recent business cases available as learning materials.

Which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why?

In May 2019, NUCB Business School reached an agreement with the Institute for International Studies and Training (IIST), a Japanese non-profit foundation, to acquire its case distribution unit, known as Case Center Japan (CCJ). The distribution unit was on the verge of bankruptcy. As CCJ was the only means for researchers and Business Schools in Japan to purchase case studies, its closure would have had a tremendous impact on management education and business research in Japan. 

NUCB Business School agreed to take over the full business operations of the CCJ case distribution, translation, and training unit. Under new management, CCJ will now be able to expand its reach to distribute cases nationwide. Moreover, it will promote case method workshops and has recently signed an agreement with Harvard Business School Publishing to hold seminars in Japan to introduce the unique benefits of case method’s participant-centred learning. CCJ has renewed agreements with the leading case producers and collections to translate, develop, and distribute cases throughout Japan. In all, more than 16,500 cases from Harvard Business School Publishing, IMD, INSEAD, Ivey Business School, and Darden School of Business and others are now being distributed.

Can you provide an example of how your School is using online learning to meet the needs of its students?  

Although online learning in Japan has never been fully embraced or valued, NUCB Business School began using it two years ago, when the government commissioned the School to create a pilot programme aimed at the empowerment of women. The live-online programme was a tremendous success and led the School to develop other online programmes. For example, online learning has been used in our preparation course for first-year MBA students to help familiarise them with case method learning, and a class format in which active participation is crucial, before their programme starts. 

Ironically, the training and expertise in online teaching was extremely fortuitous since NUCB Business School was the first and only Japanese university to move all of its courses to an online format in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced higher education in Japan to postpone terms and close campuses. The School made headlines across Japan when it announced that it would proceed with its spring 2020 term as scheduled – online. 

What does NUCB Business School gain from partnerships, such as the Innovation Programme offered in collaboration with Aichi Prefecture and INSEAD? 

NUCB Business School was honoured to collaborate with INSEAD and aims to learn more effective ways to realise ‘company renaissance’ which is the main focus of its Center for Entrepreneurs.  

‘Company renaissance’ is a term for companies to develop products, services, and markets by using new methods that are different from their main businesses in the process of adapting to (or anticipating) changes in its business environment. The inclusion of Aichi prefecture was also crucial in this partnership due to the fact that the prefecture is a manufacturing centre for aerospace, ceramics, motor vehicles, and so on. Thus, this partnership will create more opportunities to impact and support regional businesses, especially SMEs, which are indispensable to the success of large manufacturing companies that have been facing business succession issues.

How is the School working to boost the employment prospects of its graduates? (E.g. through the use of internship schemes or industry initiatives)

In line with the characteristics of the domestic market, management education provided is not specifically focused on helping students change their employer due to the unfortunate fact that Business School management education has still not yet been widely recognised in Japan’s business community. Thus, a large proportion of students do not change their occupation after graduation and continue to work in the same company, though often at a higher level. It’s anticipated that this trend will continue until Japan’s business community becomes more aware of, and receptive to, the value that Business School graduate degree holders can bring to their organisations. 

For those that do endeavour to change their careers, there are various support services they can receive from the Career Placement Center. The Center offers students support in the form of workshops and presentations on career planning and development, interview preparation, and effective CV writing.

What does ‘responsible management’ mean to your School and how is this concept introduced to, and instilled into, your students? 

Since its establishment, the School has followed a traditional business philosophy which has existed in Japan for over four centuries. This is called ‘Sanpou Yoshi’, meaning, ‘all three sides are good’. The ‘three sides’ allude to the idea that every business transaction has to be to the satisfaction of the seller, the buyer and to wider society – if a business is to have long-term prospects. In line with this philosophy, therefore, we recognise that it is important for the School to commit to act in all it does with ethical integrity, social responsibility and environmental sustainability in order to better develop future business leaders. 

What plans does your School have for the next three years and what developments would you like to see in the business education sector as a whole?  

Two major initiatives have been planned for the next three years. First, the School is going to expand the activities of the Case Center Japan. The CCJ is in the process of increasing the number of Asian business cases which are hyper-relevant and which have real-time scenarios, and is promoting these cases to other Business Schools. The Center is also planning to organise more Joint Case Workshops with Harvard Business School Publishing in order to improve the teaching quality among Business Schools in Asia. 

The second initiative is to start the development of a DBA programme. A study group, set up in 2019, will identify the best ways of organising the programme in upcoming years. With regards to the future development of business education, we would like to see more effective ways to develop ethical leaders, to train on the competencies that will define the next century, and to teach how to make a difference in the world, even in the pandemic situation.

Tim Desmond serves as the Senior Advisor to the Chancellor of NUCB Business School.

Ken Ozawa is Accreditation and Institutional Research Manager at NUCB Business School.

This article is taken from Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: February-April 2021).

Connecting with communities to deliver value

Sankar Sivarajah, Head of the School of Management at the University of Bradford, outlines the School’s community connections and outlook on widening access to quality management education. Interview by Tim Banerjee Dhoul

When he isn’t pursuing agritech research with the potential to transform farming, or teaching students the distinction between ‘circularity’ and ‘sustainability’, Sankar Sivarajah is excited by his institution’s ‘ambitious’ five-year strategy and its ‘bold actions… to empower change’: ‘We want to continue to focus on supporting economic and social regeneration,
suited to the real-life challenges of society by supporting non-traditional students’ engagement with local, regional and international businesses and communities,’ says Sivarajah, Head of the School of Management at the University of Bradford, UK. 

In this interview, Sivarajah tells Business Impact about the ways in which his School connects with its community – something he believes is critical to a Business School’s role in stimulating social and economic growth. He also details the approach towards inclusivity taken by the School’s online MBA and its commitment to fostering a thriving learning environment for students from underrepresented segments of society.

How has Covid-19 changed the demand for, and availability of, business education and what further changes should we expect to see in this year? 

Sankar Sivarajah

Without a shadow of a doubt, Business Schools in the UK and across the world have had to rapidly adapt and respond to the changing needs of learners, employers and governments in the current uncertain and evolving landscape. I am certain that there is a long list of changes on every Business School’s agenda, be it of redesigning and enhancing curricula and programme offers, developing staff capacity and capabilities, or even rethinking their business model and strategy.  

Business Schools will need to give serious thought to their own business model and build in agility, readiness and scalability to cope with fluctuations in business education uptake. Business Schools will also need to continue to evolve and meet the flexible demands of the new generations of learners. Most importantly, the role of Business Schools in delivering social and economic value is more important than ever to maintain their place in society.

What do you think makes your portfolio of programmes stand out from others that are available in the UK and Europe?

Our programmes are co-designed with extensive consultation and direct input from a range of stakeholders including existing and potential students, industry partners (e.g. Morrisons, IBM and Coca-Cola), alumni, School advisory boards, employers and academics. 

An example of our programme innovation is the recent conversion master’s programme in applied artificial intelligence and data analytics which received £700,000 GBP in scholarship and programme design funding from [UK public and governmental bodies, including] the Office for Students, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and the Office for Artificial Intelligence, as well as from industry contributions in the UK.

Our programmes stand out by integrating skills development opportunities where possible to allow for attaining microcredentials (from, for example, the Project Management Institute, Amazon AWS Academy, or SAS certification) through the School’s unique Career Booster (CB) Employability programme. The CB programme consists of two, week-long sessions every academic year consisting of more than 60 skills-based workshops and masterclasses that are offered free. These are delivered by sector experts, our industry partners, guest speakers and alumni to boost our student’s employability, networking and enterprise skills. 

Your School is placing emphasis on making management education more inclusive and accessible. Why is this an area of importance and what do you hope to achieve from your current initiatives? 

We have, from the outset, always been known for our progressive approach to business education. We are the first Business School in England to receive joint accreditation from AMBA & BGA, and the second in the UK. This achievement signifies our ambition in delivering impact and value creation for students, businesses and communities alike with a focus on responsible management which is inclusive and accessible.

Our flagship Distance Learning MBA (DL MBA) programme is our exemplar of making management education inclusive and accessible and was ranked – for the second year running – as first in the world for ‘value for money’ in 2020’s online MBA rankings from the Financial Times. While we maintain high standards of recruitment, we aim to ensure that financial considerations are not a barrier to individuals who wish to engage in management studies, and this is reflected in the course fees, and students’ ability to pay in instalments over a two-year period. The online and flexible model of the DL MBA has attracted and provided access to learners from 99 nationalities across the globe from Barbados to Australia. We want to continue to develop and ensure that we provide quality responsible management education that is affordable and accessible by everyone.

Do Business Schools need to do more to address social inequality and provide opportunities for social mobility? 

Absolutely. Business Schools have become widely recognised for the role that they play in stimulating social and economic growth. Key within many of these roles are ways in which Business Schools connect with the community and co-exist to address socioeconomic inequality and promote social mobility. Hence, equality, diversity and inclusion should be at the heart of every Business School, and it is certainly in our ethos, as is reflected by the wider University of Bradford being recognised as the 2020 University of the Year for Social Inclusion by Times Higher Education. Some of the School’s commitment has been centred around creating an inclusive and thriving learning environment for our students, as almost 85% of our undergraduate students come from the most socioeconomically deprived areas by postcode, as defined by POLAR 1-3 [a UK initiative measuring participation in higher education by local area] and around 70% are from BAME backgrounds, with many being first-generation university attendees. 

How are faculty members involved in the School’s Community Career Booster Programme and how do you think they benefit from their involvement? 

The Community Career Booster (CCB) Programme is a free programme that is open to all, including charities, community groups, faith groups, voluntary organisations and parents’ groups. The programme aims to enrich people’s lives in Bradford by providing accessible learning opportunities to the local community through a diverse range of skills enrichment workshops provided by the School’s academic staff on various topics, such as SAGE 50 accounting, Making Tax Digital and Microsoft Word and Excel training.  

This ‘Certificate of Learning’ awarding programme benefits communities by boosting personal development, skills, confidence and CVs, thus enhancing technical skills while making a difference to the organisation or community group they are working within or support. The faculty members benefit from these initiatives as it provides them with a development opportunity (especially early-career staff) to engage with local businesses and community stakeholders to build partnerships and work together in addressing real-world business needs. In some cases, these relationships and connections with practice evolve into successful research projects that produce a societal impact where both our researchers and business community mutually benefit.

Aside from its potential for impact in the community, in your opinion, how does the School’s Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) benefit the School? 

The School prioritises growing engagement with small business and entrepreneurs. In support of this, we provide a number of activities and programmes, including the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) programme. Supported by Barclays UK, the KTN is an established, open and free-to-access community of SMEs that act to support each other and work collaboratively with the School of Management and across the University. 

The network has impacted on more than 5,000 SMEs over its lifecycle and has a current membership of well over 1,500 SMEs. Through this, we have offered networking seminars and events for around 3,000 businesses in Bradford for more than 15 years. During the Covid period, we have continued to deliver the KTN through a series of virtual facilitated events. Due to its participant’s mix – i.e. representatives from local businesses, public organisations, and third sector organisations, as well as academics, students and alumni, KTN provides a solid networking platform. KTN members have acted as mentors and role models for our students and is a source for industry consultation. Together with its local project and placement opportunities, this makes the KTN key to supporting the success of our students. 

Which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why?

What excites me is the delivery of the School’s ambitious five-year strategy (2020-25) which sets out bold actions to use our responsible management education, distinctive and relevant research and partnerships to empower change. The strategy has been developed and built incorporating inputs from staff, students, international and industry advisory boards, community groups, and organisations that we work with, embedding recommendations from our triple-crown accreditation bodies (AACSB, AMBA, EQUIS) and our commitment to UN PRME principles.

As a School, we want to continue to focus on supporting economic and social regeneration, suited to the real-life challenges of society by supporting non-traditional students’ engagement with local, regional and international businesses and communities. Our planned efforts and developments will therefore focus on opening up the value of the School for more people; scale business and community engagement initiatives; provide more diverse, work-ready talent for both small businesses and large organisations, bridge the skills gap and enable businesses in the region and globally to access university resources and thereby support their growth. 

Your research is said to concentrate largely on the use of emerging digital technology for the betterment of society. Can you tell me a bit about one of your current or recent projects in this area? 

A recent project of mine with fellow researchers has been on developing a concept of ‘drone swarms’, airborne AI units capable of quickly gathering masses of information about crops, soil temperature, moisture levels and the use of pesticides which have the potential to transform farming, increase yields and make production more efficient. 

The research project has recently been published in Production Planning and Control Journal and has applications in places where there is a need for farmers to explore vast areas of inaccessible land. We have conceptualised the idea and the next step is to simulate and test the real thing. Agritech and food security is a huge area, both in the UK and across the world. As AI grows, this will become much more important. Emerging technologies act as an enabler for most organisations which can end up being used for good or bad, so I believe it’s important to use it in the right way and for the betterment of society.

Your teaching at MBA level includes the circular economy. What do tomorrow’s business managers and owners need to know and understand about the circular economy? 

One thing I always highlight to our executives is to first get to grips with the fundamentals of the circular economy and its principles and not to misinterpret it with various [aspects of the] sustainability agenda. Unfortunately, the terms ‘circularity’ and ‘sustainability’ are used together and somewhat interchangeably, which dilutes the importance and action related to either one. 

Our current and future business managers, owners and leaders need to be in a position to challenge the norm and move away from the linear industrial economy practices of make, use and dispose. The principles of circular economy as a framework equips them to do exactly that and enables them to rethink our industrial economy by design or intention. Innovation and enterprise lie at the heart of the circular economy where harnessing new ideas, modernising old ideas and shifting to circular models for value creation, retention and recovery is a must for today’s business managers and owners, not just tomorrow’s.

Sankar Sivarajah is Head of the School of Management and a Professor of Technology Management and Circular Economy at the University of Bradford, UK. 

This article is taken from Business Impact’s print magazine (edition: February-April 2021).

Moving beyond Covid-19: TAPMI, India

How have Business Schools been working to move past the pandemic, both in the short and longer term? Insights from Madhu Veeraraghavan, a Director and Professor of Finance at TAPMI, Manipal

Covid-19 has presented Business Schools with an opportunity to increase the skills of their faculty and staff. The pandemic has also created conditions in which there is a growing demand for executive education. These are just two topics touched on in the below interview with Madhu Veeraraghavan, a Director and Professor of Finance at TAPMI in Manipal, India.

This extended interview with Veeraraghavan took place in the summer of 2020, when Business Impact canvased the collected thoughts of Business Schools in the BGA global network to learn more about their experiences of the pandemic to date, and how they felt it would affect their outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future. You can read the original feature here.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

Yes, it does. There are certain cost and time efficiencies which cannot be ignored. Under normal circumstances, adoption of new technology would not have been smooth. In this instance, given that people have adapted and learnt to deal with technology, it would be unwise to let the system at large to ‘unlearn’. This will definitely be an excellent opportunity to further the market for online education and also increase the skills of the resource pool – faculty and staff.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have 2020’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

The current times have forced quicker adoption and use of online technology, less resistance and more acceptance. These positive changes will help redesign and position online programmes better. Faculty readiness and infrastructural improvement have happened faster than had been planned.

The global financial crisis of 2008 has been linked to an increase in applications to Business School, as people decided the time was right to reassess their career goals and pursue personal and professional development. Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar impact?

Yes, it will. Students’ willingness to spend on expensive higher education will fall in the short term. The priorities may also shift away from acquiring new skill sets in a new uncertain environment to honing existing skills to ensure survival. Furthermore, the acceptance of short-term programmes online with a specialised focus is likely to increase.

The global pandemic has also impacted lifestyle choices and spending patterns. Staying close to home might encourage an increase in family business interests and local, regional entrepreneurship. [In India] t government’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ self-reliance campaign may also encourage a rise in local entrepreneurial ambitions.

What changes do you anticipate to the number and profile of those applying to programmes at your Business School over the coming three years? Do you envisage greater interest in any individual programme(s) on offer?

We may see an increase in application from freshers as against candidates with work experience. In addition to our regular two-year programmes, we also run customised management programmes of up to 11 months in length. The demand for the latter is likely to increase. We might also see an increase in the number of courses/certifications that are specialised and of short duration.

What will be the core challenges for the business education sector in recruiting new students (at both undergraduate and postgraduate level) over the coming three years?

Since employability may take a hit in the short to immediate future, the premise of attracting new students will have to change from upskilling for greater opportunity to skilling to stay relevant and preparing for uncertainty. Courses offered with industry collaboration, in-company programmes and skills-based courses for fresh graduates may become a norm. The School’s ability to design and market such courses may be the cornerstone for its own success. When times do turn around, the students who have been part of such short-term programmes become an immediate market for the two-year programme.

Business Schools are often encouraged to play a greater role in their local and regional communities. Has Covid-19 inspired any new events, activities or initiatives with this in mind?

Yes. The School has been considering more community-based projects, working with local governments to deal with employment issues, helping small and medium businesses with strategic and operational considerations and more community/social work by students.

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why?

The focus on executive education. Specialised, short duration and turnaround courses, with a focus on quick problem solving, experimental models in marketing and operations and more consultancy-based courses; co-created with industry to help them handle immediate problems. The design and delivery of such courses will also open a new portfolio in the Business School’s armoury.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

Given the uncertain travel environment, international exchange and partnership programmes might become few and far between in the next two years. In this scenario, the Business Schools’ focus will also be regionally and nationally to address the immediate management needs of governments, local corporates and financial institutions. The international exchange programmes could still involve joint case study development and experiential learning and training at the faculty and student level.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School? (for example, new modules or new approaches within existing modules)

As a positive response to the situation, we are considering adding modules and courses to deal with examples of similar global crises in the past. Many ideas that are discussed as part of lean management, (reverse) supply chain, for example, need to revisit the practices followed by companies in these times of crisis. We have added additional courses in the areas of big data, AI and analytics.

There is already an argument that the economic challenges that Covid-19 will bring represent a huge and much-needed opportunity for Business Schools to reinvent their value proposition for the better. What would you most like to see change in the business education industry?

Post-WW2, the rise of industrial activities and, later, increasing globalisation along with outsourcing of activities led to higher demand in business education around the world. Now, the clamour for being ‘self-reliant’ across nations is increasing and reverse migrations are on the rise.

The aspect of sustainability, which was not very seriously looked into, will get a serious re-look. If there is one big change that will transform business education in the short term, it will be the industry’s ability to adapt its course offerings to deal with uncertainties and continue to be relevant to learners in these times.

Acquiring an expensive Business School education may not be a priority but being relevant and useful will be for students and young executives. [As such], short duration courses and certifications may see a rise in the immediate term.

Madhu Veeraraghavan is a Director and Professor of Finance at TAPMI, Manipal, India. Prior to joining TAPMI, he was a Professor of Finance and Head of the Finance Department at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia. He has also held teaching and research positions at the University of Auckland Business School, New Zealand.

Leveraging Antwerp’s international ecosystems

Antwerp Management School’s Dean, Steven De Haes, tells Tim Banerjee Dhoul how the School seeks to maximise the benefits of its location in the thriving business environment of a city that is home to one of the world’s largest ports

Antwerp, Belgium, is home to Europe’s second-largest port, a thriving logistics hub, and international companies which use the city as a springboard into the European market. It’s this singular environment that Antwerp Management School (AMS) looks to leverage in its programme offerings, says the School’s Dean, Steven De Haes, among which is one of Europe’s earliest executive MBAs. 

Topics covered by De Haes in this exclusive interview with Business Impact include the use of  neurotraining to hone leadership skills, AMS’s performance in a new impact-oriented form of Business School rankings and how being able to retain a truly international study experience could act as a potential differentiator, post-Covid-19. 

Why is management education important in your country? What is the value it brings to the community you serve?

Due to its open engagement in international trade and business, Belgium has always been at the forefront of global business developments, and especially Antwerp, through its international port activities. Many international companies continue to use Belgium as a springboard to the European market. 

Alongside this, management and business education in Belgium has an equally long tradition – the first management education at university level dates from 1852. With the battle for talent growing stronger every year, Business Schools like Antwerp Management School are providing companies and public authorities with the professional talent they need to manage their business activities in a competitive, innovative and sustainable way.

Antwerp Management School celebrated its 60th anniversary last year – its EMBA programme started in 1959 and is one of the pioneers in Europe. Through this, and many other programmes, we are serving the international business community and leveraging the unique international ecosystems in the greater Antwerp area. 

In addition, the School’s research and educational activities create awareness among our customers of recent management practices and provide participants with the knowledge and skills they need to make a difference. The School also assists and guides companies and organisations during processes of sustainable transformation and realising a positive impact on society.

How healthy is the current market for business education in your country?

The attractiveness and competitive value of business education in a country like Belgium is founded on several factors. Its location in the centre of western Europe offers an excellent setting to discuss European business practices. Brussels is home to a large number of international institutions, such as the European Union and NATO, but also a great number of international companies have Belgium as their European headquarters. Major business centres like London, Paris and Frankfurt can be reached easily in a few hours, so our School can offer business students direct access to major economic decision-making powers and invite key business leaders to contribute to our programmes on and off campus. 

Besides this environment, Belgium has always invested significantly in high-quality, accessible education. A city like Antwerp has the additional advantage of being a major European hub for transport and logistics, while offering a very good quality of living vs. cost of living. The current global situation [caused by the Covid-19 pandemic] puts a lot of pressure on international travel, but due to the factors described above, we are better armed than most to continue offering a truly international study experience. 

Can you tell me a bit about the type of people who study at your School and what those who have graduated from your School have gone on to do in the local region and beyond? 

Our School offers two types of graduate master’s programmes: full-time master’s degrees and executive master’s degrees. There are nine full-time master’s programmes run over one year of full-time study, with about 250 students. Their average age is 24, and they come from almost 50 different countries worldwide, with a very good gender balance. 

There are about 200 students on our four executive master’s programmes, which involve two years of part-time study. Participants are professionals from various sectors, public and private, who want to accelerate or diversify their careers, with an average age of about 37. 

In total, AMS now has more than 26,000 alumni in more than 100 countries. While a whole generation of top managers in Belgium have been educated at the School since the 1970s and 1980s, international expansion has been remarkable since the start of the 1990s and many of our alumni have gone on to develop significant careers in their home countries and abroad, in many different sectors.

What do you think makes your portfolio of programmes stand out from others that are available in the country headquarters of your School and the surrounding region?

In the first place, AMS has a strong focus on demonstrating its positive impact on society and the world. 

AMS is one of three European Business Schools that are ranked as ‘transforming Schools’ in the Positive Impact Rating (PIR), announced recently at the World Economic Forum in Davos. PIR is a new ranking that goes beyond ordinary rankings to measure societal impact. Today’s young and experienced professionals not only want to get the most out of their careers in the traditional sense, they also want to make a difference in society. They are therefore counting on their Business School to set a good example. PIR assesses seven dimensions of impact: governance and culture, programmes, learning methods, student engagement, the institution as a role model, and public engagement. In other words: walking the talk. 

AMS also has a unique opportunity to tap into some international ecosystems present in Antwerp. For example, the port of Antwerp is Europe’s second largest, and is the centre of an extensive transportation and logistics hub. This offers students in our supply chain management programme, as well as those studying our maritime and air transport management programme, the perfect environment to learn and see how the sector evolves, technologically, and from a business perspective.

About which single new programme or initiative are you most excited, and why?

The ‘Global Leadership Skills’ (GLS) programme – an intensive one-year trajectory that is now integrated in all full-time master’s programmes. The idea behind this interdisciplinary programme was to develop an integrated learning journey that would put the values of the School – global, critical, and sustainable mindsets – at the centre of AMS’s full-time master’s programmes, and to engage all students in concrete activities that support these values. 

One example of a GLS activity is teams of students setting up their own action-learning project, which is basically a community project that contributes to one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

In these multidisciplinary and international project teams, the students not only acquire important leadership skills but also contribute to raising awareness of the SDGs both inside and outside the School. In this way, we ensure that AMS alumni fully embrace a global, critical and sustainable mindset. 

Can you provide an example of how AMS is using online learning and/or new technology to meet the needs of its students?

When AMS moved to a new campus in 2018, this opportunity was used to invest heavily in virtual learning facilities. These allow faculty and staff to apply online teaching and blended learning capabilities across all programmes, and has made the School quite resilient in these challenging Covid-19 times. 

AMS also invests in technology-enabled innovations to explore new frontiers of knowledge. Last year, for example, a NeuroTraining LabTM was installed at Antwerp Management School under the guidance of Neuroscience and Strategic Leadership Professor, Steven Poelmans. 

Neurotraining is a method for the development of leadership competencies, by observing leadership behaviours in a controlled high-tech setting and measuring the associated neurocognitive activity. Its purpose is to increase EQ, performance and health in professionals by giving task-based neurofeedback. Participants confront emotionally challenging business situations by interacting with one another and a specifically trained actor. Our feedback allows them to observe, and to improve, their responses and behaviour, because we can link their biometric and electroencephalography (EEG) activity to underlying leadership competencies. So far, many enthusiastic responses were received from participants and companies.

How does AMS engage with businesses, government and other public sector organisations in your region? 

Managers and business practitioners, often alumni, contribute to the School’s programmes in many ways: guest lectures, meetings with students, company visits, members of project juries and so on. All these activities fit into AMS’s strategy of positioning itself as a trusted partner for organisations in transformation. 

In addition, Antwerp Management School has always cultivated strong collaborative links with local, regional and national public authorities. We have an excellent relationship with the city of Antwerp, but also with non-profit organisations, such as hospital networks and cultural institutions. 

What does ‘responsible management’ mean to your School and how is this concept introduced to, and instilled into, your students?

For more than 10 years, one of the key elements of AMS’s mission statement has been ‘societal consciousness’. This broad concept combines principles of ethical behaviour, sustainability, personal engagement, social equity and the responsibility of companies and organisations in society as a whole. Introducing these concepts to our students clearly goes beyond teaching and reflection. 

Students are actively involved in community projects, for example, and are encouraged to integrate these issues in their reports and projects. They are even asked to challenge their peers, faculty, companies and the School itself on these matters. Antwerp Management School is also a signatory to the UN’s Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) and one of the founding institutions of its Benelux-France chapter. The PRME are a very useful instrument in making students understand what responsible management is, and they are actively used in their study programmes. We ask students to voluntarily become ambassadors of these principles, and many embrace this role enthusiastically. 

What plans does your School have for the next three years and what developments would you like to see?

Since the current health crisis, this question has become a lot more difficult to answer. Before Covid-19, Antwerp Management School was on a journey of steady growth through a careful balancing of our programme portfolio. We were, and we are, developing innovative approaches to become a truly responsible and sustainable Business School with personal attention for each student, and a focus on developing the best leaders, not ‘of’ the world but ‘for’ the world. 

The changing circumstances that we are now facing only confirm the importance of the choices we have made and strengthen our determination to continue to pursue these goals. Realising them will require additional resilience and creativity, but we are convinced that the innovative spirit of the School will enable and accelerate this transformation and eventually strengthen our market position.

Steven De Haes, PhD, is Dean of Antwerp Management School (AMS) and Professor of Digital Strategy and Governance at AMS and the University of Antwerp, Belgium. 

This article is taken from Business Impact’s fifth edition in print.

Moving beyond Covid-19: Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, Scotland

How have Business Schools been working to move past the pandemic, both in the short and longer term? Kathleen Riach, Professor of Organisation Studies at Adam Smith Business School, offers her perspective

An initiative designed to help students at Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow transition to an online world of work has been rolled out to a wider audience of alumni and partners, says Professor of Organisation Studies, Kathleen Riach.

This is just one example of the School’s response to the challenges presented by Covid-19. In this interview, Riach also discusses the need – and opportunity – for the sector to learn lessons from the speed of response to the pandemic’s outbreak and outlines her belief that global and ‘inward’ strategies are not dichotomous ideas.

Business Impact’s fifth edition in print turned to the BGA network to canvas the collected thoughts of Business Schools based in India, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Poland, and the Netherlands to find out how they expect the pandemic to affect their outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future. Given in June 2020, the below interview offers greater detail of Riach’s perspective on how the emerging situation and challenges had been approached at Adam Smith Business School to date.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

There is absolutely a need to think about this not as an erroneous year, but rather how we can build on some of the creative virtual teaching and learning practices that have sprung up all around our Business Schools.

Part of this is thinking about how we share what we are doing in lieu of the watercooler and corridor conversations we usually have with colleagues. It is also about ensuring that in the longer term we encourage the creation of ambidextrous learning assets that can enhance our students’ learning experiences in a number of settings, whether that is online, blended, or predominantly face to face.

I also think that it has made us more open to thinking about asynchronous and synchronous learning as not an either/or conundrum and that our curricula might want to be more flexible in this regard, which is a good thing given that more and more of our students are now balancing multiple roles as workers and carers as well as learners.

At the same time, I think there has been a renewed appreciation of what being physically present provides within an educational setting and that there is a qualitative aspect that is very difficult to replicate through other media. Moving forward, it provides us with an opportunity to think about how we use the valuable face-to-face time we have with learners to support and create a transformative learning experience.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have the year’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

It’s really important not to underestimate the amount of upskilling and sheer number of hours of labour that has been put into this by faculty and professional staff, and that this effort is going to continue as we seek to create sustainable teaching and learning practices over the coming years. We need to consider this not simply as a matter of online technology, but also a matter of wellbeing and ensure we are promoting practical ways that all Business School staff do not carry the health hangovers of this period of intensive work into the future.

However, amid the exhaustion there has also been some excitement to see just how quickly at Glasgow – an institution that is more than 550 years old – we can change and adapt, which can sometimes be a challenge in any large organisation.

I also think it’s important that now the initial ‘rush’ of pivoting online has occurred, we have the opportunity to think a bit more strategically about not just online technology, but also how we can learn lessons from what was a very rapid response to a crisis. Strategically speaking, how might we be able to learn lessons surrounding quickly enabling and mobilising in ways that help us proactively address broader challenges in the business world and beyond?

The global financial crisis of 2008 has been linked to an increase in applications to Business Schools, as people decided the time was right to reassess their career goals and pursue personal and professional development. Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic could have a similar impact?

Any seismic global event is undoubtedly – and hopefully – going to make people reflect on what they do and why, and I think we will see an increased interest in people taking this time to recalibrate career goals. 

What changes do you anticipate to the number and profile of those applying to programmes at your Business School over the coming three years? Do you envisage greater interest in any individual programme(s) on offer?

Apart from having to navigate the logistical challenges that may face our international students, what we see is that students are very aware of how we are proactively responding to and engaging with current events, from sustainability to global inequality.

Business Schools are often encouraged to play a greater role in their local and regional communities. Has Covid-19 inspired any new events, activities or initiatives with this in mind?

Across the School we have seen our staff leverage their existing research expertise to provide thought leadership and new research projects that speak directly to some of the economic, work-related and social issues that circulate around Covid-19.

We have also decided to offer our DigiGallus initiative – an online programme developed to help students transition to an online world of work during lockdown – to alumni and key partners with the Business School. The traction we got from students in the School with DigiGallus has also provided the opportunity to develop an online mentoring scheme between our students and members of the local community who are shielding. We are hoping that this not only provides a service to local residents to navigate online living, but also gives students the opportunity to develop skills in leadership and intergenerational learning during the Summer break when many of their internships and workplaces are suspended or remain closed.

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why?

We just launched our MSc Financial Technology programme which is an interfaculty postgraduate degree with computing science, and law. Students from a variety of disciplines learn practical and conceptual skills, then have the opportunity for either a six-week industry placement or a startup pathway in an incubator developing an investment plan. It’s exciting to see the potential.

But beyond this, what we have seen in Covid-19 is a renewed thinking about how all our course provision is going to respond to the seismic changes we see in the world,  and teaching staff are taking this opportunity to think about how we make sure that the skills we develop and way we teach is relevant to the world we are now in.

This might sound a rather obvious point, but as academics we are also all voracious learners, and listening to the different types of conversations with colleagues about exploring and developing provision in our courses that will support and equip our students to face their future worlds of work is pretty invigorating.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

There are certainly practical challenges and possibly uncomfortable conversations that have to take place surrounding what it means to be a global Business School. Covid-19 has perhaps accelerated and brought to the fore a lot of the concerns many already had about the ways and means we think about being international and paying attention to all of our key stakeholders. 

However, I don’t think global and inward strategies are dichotomous ideas. Rather, it is about thinking what our students and ourselves achieve from initiatives such as international exchanges and partnerships in their current form, and thinking creatively about how we can maintain and strengthen these aspects in a variety of ways, as well as considering how these competencies and benefits can be garnered through a more intimate engagement with, and contribution to, local economies.

For example, at a university level, our institution is currently thinking about civic engagement as a strategic priority and partnering with local and national government on very practical initiatives. One of the things that struck me when I came to University of Glasgow was that it certainly is ‘home to the world’ in many ways and that students who come here very quickly adopt the city. So, I think it’s more a case of developing these relationships further, rather than an ‘inward’ turn.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School?

In many ways, Covid-19 has only further legitimised the direction we were already moving in terms of our provision. We have recently become advanced signatories of PRME and with COP26 being hosted in Glasgow, we already had the momentum of thinking about a different ecology of business education. At the same time, as a research-led School, provision is a ground-up process and courses are led by the expertise of faculty. I think it’s very important that we don’t simply begin introducing reactionary courses that speak directly to a theme per se, but rather think about what capabilities and skills students will need as a result of these global changes and how we can best foster these in our curricula.

There is an argument that the economic challenges that Covid-19 will bring represent a huge and much-needed opportunity for Business Schools to reinvent their value proposition for the better. What would you most like to see change in the business education industry?

We must acknowledge that this has been – and will continue to be – a devastating event for the world that has disproportionately affected certain parts of the population. But using it as a productive moment to think how we can do something is vital.

Business Schools collectively are a powerful force and thinking not only about our multiple accountabilities but also our potential to be incubators for change is so important, especially as we are at the beginning of the United Nations’ ‘Decade of Action’. In my role, one of the aspects we are going to focus on is how we ensure stewardship is central to the curriculum. If we really want to support our students becoming change agents in their future workplaces and the economy more broadly, then we need to ensure they don’t feel they are passive or mute agents in the current systems and ways of thinking. 

Kathleen Riach is Professor of Organisation Studies at Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, Scotland, having previously held faculty and visiting positions in Australia, Sweden and Germany. She is the School’s inaugural lead of Responsible and Sustainable Management, with her own research focusing on organisational age and gender inequality.

Moving beyond Covid-19: Inter Metro, Puerto Rico

Inter Metro’s Antonio Fernós Sagebién looks at how the Puerto Rican institution’s offerings and plans for the immediate future have been affected by the pandemic

How will Covid-19 affect Business Schools’ outlook, strategy and offerings, both now and in the future? Business Impact’s fifth edition in print turned to the BGA network to canvas the collected thoughts of Business Schools based in India, Scotland, Puerto Rico, Poland, and the Netherlands to find out.

In this third part of our serialisation online, Antonio Fernós Sagebién – Associate Professor at the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico, Metropolitan Campus (Inter Metro) – shares his views on the awaited ‘new normal’, changes to programme structures, and financial challenges for part-time students that work full time. Please note that this interview was given in May/June 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic has, in many cases, led to a greatly increased uptake of online learning technology in business education. Although this has been a short-term necessity, does it present the sector with any opportunities in the longer term?

Yes, my university has a long-standing [history] of 100% online programmes (mostly courses that are 75% asynchronous) but now we have had to move [programmes with] 100% presence to hybrid (courses that are 100% online but that are at least 25% synchronous) courses.

As such, 100% of our faculty is now certified by [edtech company] Blackboard and, in our 100% online courses offer, existing courses are being refreshed with new material and modules and new courses are being created.

Going beyond the pandemic’s immediate impact, have the year’s developments influenced your School’s strategy with regards to the use of online technology?

Yes, faculty and students are now required to use online library resources (for both databases and periodicals/journals).

What will be the core challenges for the business education sector in recruiting new students (at both undergraduate and postgraduate level) over the coming three years?  

Our students and my institution take pride in our very low teacher-to-student ratio, along with having personalised class scheduling processes. We now will have less degrees of freedom on our courses scheduling offer.

As most of our MBA students are employed full time, if any specific industry or sector gets affected or labour force is displaced, these students will have no source of funding.

Leaving aside Covid-19, which single new programme, course, or initiative are you most excited about and why? 

New concentration in business analysis and a new master’s degree (non-MBA) specialised in banking administration.

Do you think Business Schools will need to focus more inwardly (and therefore less ‘globally’) than they have been in their teaching in order to address industry needs post-Covid-19? If so, could this have an impact on your School’s international exchange and partnership options?

Yes, indeed. As part of the US, our borders/immigration policies are the same as those of the US. It is always a challenge to get approval on visas for international students in Puerto Rico.

Do you anticipate Covid-19, and related issues, influencing course offerings within the programmes on offer from your School? (E.g. new modules, or new approaches within existing modules)

Yes, financial hardship from new and existing students will force us to create new delivery channels that are not yet validated. Exploring is a part of innovation and students, faculty and administrators are looking for a return to a ‘new normal’ that we have yet to know. Quite possibly, MBA courses will be [start to be] offered in a bimonthly cycle modules.

However, our position is that until we meet this ‘new normal’, we make no sudden moves.