Impacting the community through student projects

Here are two working professionals in a joyful conversation sitting at a table in an office space environment. The table has an open laptop, notepad, books and a turquoise coloured potted plant of grass.

Amizan Omar details the Bradford Business Challenge projects undertaken by final-year undergraduate students as part of the University of Bradford School of Management’s commitment to serve and make an impact on the largest meaning of ‘community’

Harnessing diversity and inclusivity, and putting ethics, sustainability and responsible management at the heart of its actions, the University of Bradford School of Management is committed to making an impact on and serving the largest meaning of ‘community’ – i.e., the diverse range of people everywhere in the world.

Community engagement

This commitment is so important to the School because 85% of its students come from the most socio-economically diverse areas by postcode, around 70% are from BME backgrounds, and because of the wider University of Bradford’s commitment to social mobility. As such, the School engages actively with communities, non-traditional students, and small-scale regional enterprises. This is manifest in the School’s mission and vision statements, which are then articulated in its broader set of actions, particularly through the academic offerings.

The University of Bradford School of Management is the first in England to receive joint accreditation from AMBA & BGA and, in the spirit of the BGA Charter, the School has a string focus on bringing business and students together in learning and teaching activities inside and outside the classroom.  

The School runs various initiatives, including its Career Booster programme – a series of seminars and workshops offered two weeks each academic year to equip students with out-of-classroom transferable skills and commercial awareness. Other initiatives include its Knowledge Transfer Networks – a series of monthly lectures showcasing the experience and expertise of particular business owners to other businesses, as well as students, staff and alumni, and which is followed by an opportunity for all attendees to network.

The Bradford Business Challenge

Another initiative is the increasingly prevalent Bradford Business Challenge theme for business and management undergraduates’ final-year project, where students work with business to solve a real business challenge that has been identified.

The final-year project module for these students requires a 7,500 words dissertation, which can be based on one of four themes Each of the themes – National Industrial Challenge; Global Challenge; Entrepreneurship and Innovation Challenge; and Bradford Business Challenge – involves engaging with a challenge in the real business world. However, the Bradford Business Challenge is alone in being an applied research project that requires students to work on a project sponsored by a business or organisation.

Students opting for this theme partner with the sponsor to find a solution to a specific business problem with guidance from an academic. Sponsors are usually businesses as well as public and third sector organisations from the Yorkshire region, England. Most of the projects are sourced from the University of Bradford School of Management’s longstanding Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) which consists of around 3,000 businesses in Bradford and Yorkshire region.

The Bradford Business Challenge is one way in which the School supports its the KTN members, on top of its Community Career Booster Programme (which offers probono training on specific skills, such as SAGE 50) and business advice. The idea is to promote seamless knowledge transfer between the School and businesses and thus, enable meaningful impact in the community.

Since its launch in the 2018/19 academic year, the Bradford Business Challenge has delivered a degree of impact to more than 30 sponsors and has helped participating students to develop a range of transferrable skills and improve their employability. An internal study shows that more than 50% of these students have successfully secured graduate-level jobs within six months of the study completion, and a further 30% said that the research skills acquired have supported them in their postgraduate study.

Community impact examples

Project sponsors also acknowledge that the solutions provided by students have significantly benefited them. A local marketing and advertising company that sponsored a project in the 2018/19 academic year, for example, reported an improvement in its profitability. Its project focused on investigating marketing challenges faced by the Financial Advisory Service and led to the development of a marketing strategy for financial advisers to market their services. This strategy is now used by the marketing company to gain more clients in the financial industry. Another case was a project with a luxury slow-fashion startup that is today an award-winning SME on market research, and this has contributed to the launch of its products.

Company sponsors span various organisation types and sizes, including public and third sector organisations. Working with the local council, one final-year project student has worked on concept proofing for ‘Citizen Coin Bradford’ – an initiative designed to encourage volunteering in community projects and support for local retailers. Volunteers to the scheme are rewarded with ‘digital coins’ for which they are entitled to discounts from local retailers.

In another recent example, a student worked with an established charity in the City of Bradford to overcome a long-existing HR management issue in the organisation. This has significantly contributed to the sustainability of the organisation, which provides a range of free therapeutic counselling services to vulnerable young people, families, individuals, and couples living in the Bradford region.

Widening reach and winning recognition

The online platform brought in by the School amid lockdown measures and travel restrictions has proven to be a silver lining for fostering broader engagement with the international business community. Through a network of the School’s MBA alumni, the School secured a project sponsored by a Dubai-based food truck and modular/mobile unit manufacturing company. The success of this project – carried out by a student with support from an academic who is a marketing expert – has led to the School opening up the Bradford Business Challenge to international sponsors. A further cross-borders initiative aimed at generating a greater impact in the community at large is now also underway to enhance the value delivered to students and the stakeholders.

In February 2021, the School was granted Small Business Charter status. The award recognises the School’s enduring commitment to working with businesses and entrepreneurs in the city, region and more widely, and its support for them through various initiatives, including the Bradford Business Challenge. Two months following this, the School was awarded ‘Business School of the Year 2020’ by the Educate North Awards – an awards event that celebrates, recognises and shares best practice and excellence in the education sector in the North of the UK.  

Moving forward, the School has identified several key objectives for the future. They include an urgent need for Bradford to move away from low-skills and low-economic positions towards raising academic aspirations and achievements in the local area. There is also a need to tackle the demographic decline in the number of 18-year-olds nationally and addressing the changing needs of employers who are expecting flexibility, resilience, commercial nous, and enhanced skills in relation to the digitisation of work, big data and AI.

Dr Amizan Omar is the Director of Accreditations for the Faculty of Management, Law and Social Sciences, University of Bradford, UK. She is also an Associate Professor at the School of Management, where she leads the undergraduate final-year project module. Omar is a sustainability advocator and the Faculty Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Champion.

Leading change and inspiring lifelong learning

A student is looking into the bright blue sunny sky with a backpack on his shoulders, holding a mobile in one hand and resting the other on a bike. The student is in the city with high glassed buildings.

Changing landscapes necessitate changing approaches to alumni relations and lifelong learning. Experts from a variety of industries offer their perspectives

In a volatile world, even MBAs are challenged to keep abreast of trends and issues constantly – and 34% of graduates were found to have accessed lifelong learning from their Business School, post-MBA, in a recent AMBA & BGA survey. Growing interest and demand for continued learning presents Business Schools with a golden opportunity to retain close links with their alumni. As such, a session of the AMBA & BGA Festival of Excellence explored strategies and opportunities for Business Schools to reinvent teaching and learning among students, graduates, alumni networks, and in their custom and executive education offerings. 

Chairing the panel was Ivan Mitchell, CEO of Studious Digital Education, who kickstarted the conversation by saying: ‘I’m sure lifelong learning is on the agenda throughout organisations across the world. I want to start thinking about what the future holds for this space of lifelong learning – what are we optimistic about and what do we think is going to happen?’

Bodo Schlegelmilch, Chair of AMBA & BGA, and Professor of Marketing at WU Vienna, proceeded to present a challenge for Business Schools: ‘Business Schools have to become more flexible in two ways. They have to give a lot of delivery options, in terms of the content they are producing, but also in terms of the focus of their content. 

‘A lot of Business Schools have thought in the past that graduation is it, the students are no longer our customers. This meant that alumni relations were more of an afterthought – it was maybe about getting money, or getting someone in to give a talk. That is very wrong, because we need to look at education from the cradle to the grave, so we have to address these kinds of customers in a very different way. I think that for Business Schools, that is the biggest challenge at the moment.’ 

More active roles

Offering a corporate and employment perspective, Ehab Abdel Hafez, Head of Talent Acquisition for Africa, the Middle East and Turkey at Johnson & Johnson, responded: ‘Business Schools should be making sure that corporates are playing a more active role in developing curricula,’ he said, adding that there is ‘a lot of appetite within organisations’ for this form of collaboration. 

Offering the perspective of an MBA and DBA graduate, marketing practitioner and author, Geraint Evans, said: ‘What we must do, in terms of supporting lifelong learning, is challenge the academics, educators and the people who run Business Schools. We have to act now and focus on the fundamentals as we understand them.’

Panellists were in agreement that Business Schools have an opportunity to offer more diverse and innovative forms of lifelong learning. However, Schelegelmilch pointed out that other providers exist in the market and threaten the success of this proposed strategy: ‘There’s a whole range of institutions that offer various degrees and various types of courses,’ he said. ‘In this context, you have to be careful not to just equate lifelong learning with another degree. I think another degree is always nice, but lifelong learning can be as short as a five-minute podcast you listen to every lunchtime. The interesting question here is how institutions can manage and provide lifelong learning opportunities. And how do corporations entice their employees to participate regularly in lifelong learning? I think that is a key issue.’

Keeping up with changes to technology and aspirations 

So, how is the corporate world reacting to this change in the need for learning and development, and how can Business Schools remain in the mix? Elisaveta Nojkovska, Industry Executive for Central and Eastern Europe, Higher Education at Microsoft, offered some advice: ‘Education cannot stop with university or with the MBA. The technology is changing, the environment is changing, tools are changing – so keeping up with trends is something that needs to be a norm and needs to be flexible. Being adjustable to the current situation is something that will help everyone be upskilled.’

Gaya Gamhewage, Head of Learning and Capacity Building, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization (WHO) picked up on the current pace and depth of change, before saying: ‘What change requires is for us not to educate or train, but to learn because the purpose of learning is application in real life. Our roles are changing so, even if you’re academically qualified, you will need constant learning and the systems to support that. I think our aspirations also change. Our understanding of equity and human rights has changed our aspirations, and this requires learning not just in our domains but in a complex system. That requires all of the 21st-century skills of communication, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking. 

‘All this necessitates constant learning, not just formally in universities but also through informal learning, so we may go to a course or learn from a webinar but there’s also what we learn every day, informally. How are we learning from our experiences, codifying this learning and sharing it with others? It’s this whole complex system that makes lifelong learning.’

Chair: Ivan Mitchell,CEO, Studious Digital Education

Panellists: Ehab Abdel Hafez, Head of Talent Acquisition (Africa, Middle East and Turkey) Johnson & Johnson; Geraint Evans, marketing practitioner, academic and writer; Gaya Gamhewage, Head of Learning and Capacity Building, WHO Health Emergencies Programme, World Health Organization; Elisaveta Nojkovska, Industry Executive for Central and Eastern Europe, Higher Education, Microsoft; Bodo Schlegelmilch, Chair, AMBA & BGA; Professor of Marketing, WU Vienna

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

Innovation for success in business education

Here is a lightbulb glowing white with cartoon facial features and a metallic arm pointing upright; this is symbolic of innovation and ideas.

Leaders from Rolls-Royce, PwC and the European Space Agency on how innovation will impact the business world, and what this means for business education. Highlights from a session at the AMBA & BGA Festival of Excellence

What challenges and opportunities await Business Schools in the ‘new normal’ of business? How will Business Schools create the leaders who can not only survive, but also thrive, in uncertain business conditions? And how are boundaries being pushed in terms of creativity in theory and practice at Business Schools? 

A panel of leaders working at the forefront of global innovation shared their take on these challenges and offered solutions as part of the AMBA & BGA Festival of Excellence. 

Chairing the panel was Simone Hammer, Global Marketing Director for Learning and Training Solutions at Belgian tech company, Barco. She introduced the conversation by explaining: ‘We can see as a solution provider that there has been very quick adoption [of new technology] that we didn’t think was possible. So very often in the education sector, faculty or teachers were thought to be technology adverse but the pandemic has meant that they have had to think of a different solution. That’s what we call digital enablement and now we are looking into digital transformation.’ 

Bodo Schlegelmilch, Chair of AMBA & BGA and Professor of Marketing at WU Vienna, agreed. ‘The Covid crisis has been a very big accelerator. We had a number of tendencies which were already visible – for example, more online teaching,’ he said, before adding that the pandemic had brought about, ‘a sudden huge field experiment, into which everybody had to be dragged. We went through stages. The first stage was panic: “How do we cope and how we can we do this?”. The second stage was: “This has worked quite well, so let’s experiment a little bit and make it better.” Now what we’re observing is that [Schools] are starting to become much more familiar with technology and are willing to try things out. This is an attitudinal change where they say: “Zoom is fine but what can we do in addition? Can we use virtual reality or AI in order to tailor the programme for the specific needs of students when they come in?” There’s much more willingness to explore what is possible and this attitudinal change has been very important.’

The coming stratification 

Innovations and disruption in the wider business arena have been widespread and this has also impacted on business education. The thoughts of PwC’s Director of Artificial Intelligence, Rob McCargow, chimed with those of Schlegelmilch. ‘We’ve all been dragged into this massive field experiment and everyone had to pivot to remote working within 24 hours,’ said McCargow. ‘At PwC, we had to move our 300,000 people to a remote setting immediately and this has accelerated many of the digital transformation programmes we were building. In some cases, things that had been on the roadmap for four years [from now] have been dragged to immediate action, which has been really quite exciting. 

‘This has been radical innovation by necessity – not by aspiration – and that’s been an exciting place to be. I keep hearing the phrase, “when we get back to normal,” but if we’re being candid, there is no getting back to normal now and we will see a stratification of companies that have a different mindset about the return to normal, post-Covid-19. There will be some laggards who will be desperately trying to get back to a semblance of normality and wishing to adopt the same format as before the pandemic, but at the other extreme, we will see companies entirely reinventing their business model. We’ve already seen companies disinvest from their real estate portfolio entirely and work to a fully virtual setting. The reality [for most], though, will be somewhere in the middle. PwC is going to be radically different, but we still need to have some face-to-face contact. 

‘My biggest concern is the more junior staff coming into the workplace for the first time. We have to cater for them properly and enable the ability to build social cohesion and social capital. We can’t go too far down a digital track immediately and forget about that essence of humanity.’ 

Finding the right balance

On this point, Manisha Mistry, Head of Digital Culture at Rolls-Royce, explained that more innovative approaches to business education will produce more innovative graduates, and that both Schools and employers will need to adapt quickly to make the most of a creative, tech-savvy stream of talent. 

‘There’s a real balance now that I think organisations, in my experience, are working out how they can allow these [tech-savvy] people to come into a world that we’ve cultivated over years of experience and built to a point where we’re safe in the sense of where we’re operating. We know we need to shift but [these people] are used to volatility; they’re used to changing direction instantly without worrying about all the predicating processes, models or practices around them. They have to do that with us – not to us – and these are the kinds of new areas of focus I think we’re going to need to start seeing coming through Business Schools.’

Frank Salzgeber, Head of Innovation and Ventures, ESA Space Solutions, European Space Agency, summed up the session by voicing his support for the notion of ‘social capital’ to enable innovation: ‘Everybody has a kind of social bank account. When you become older, your career is fuller, and you can really use these connections. If you’re younger, you have to fill up [the account] somehow. While they will also have to do this face to face, we have to see how we teach students that they can do this online. The challenge is to adapt our soft skills to make them work in a digital format.’

Chair: Simone Hammer, Global Marketing Director, Learning and Training Solutions, Barco

Panellists: Rob McCargow, Director of Artificial Intelligence, PwC; Manisha Mistry, Head of Digital Culture, Rolls-Royce; Frank Salzgeber, Head of Innovation and Ventures, ESA Space Solutions, European Space Agency; Bodo Schlegelmilch, Chair, AMBA & BGA; Professor of Marketing, WU Vienna

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

The place of culture in offering holistic experiences

Here are multiple falling books in a closed pale green room.

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—Symoblic to partnerships and diversity.

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).

Addressing hidden identity threats in the diverse workplace

Here is a single penguin standing away from a group of penguins.

There are challenges concerning both minority and majority groups in the workplace that organisations must be aware of and act on, if diversity, equity and inclusion policies are to be effective, say UCL School of Management’s Clarissa Cortland and Felix Danbold

As workplaces become more diverse, many companies are already seeing great gains. Increased diversity in organisations has been linked to improvements in innovation and profitability, and it also plays a vital social purpose in reducing inequalities between demographic groups.

However, those who work at the forefront of DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) in organisations know that growing diversity also brings its share of challenges. Being around members of different groups can activate deep psychological anxieties for members of minority and majority groups alike. Our research shows how group identities (for example, gender, race or nationality) can lead employees of any background to feel a sense of threat, and how this threat may undermine employee wellbeing and the ability to work together harmoniously. Critically, because these threats are rooted in identity, rather than more tangible sources like competition over material resources, they can be challenging to put a finger on. Without understanding and addressing these often-overlooked threats, DEI efforts are likely to fall short of their goals.

Threats for members of minority groups

Groups that are historically underrepresented in many organisational contexts, such as ethnic minorities, or women in historically masculine industries and professional roles, often face both the burden of being relatively isolated, as well as the stigma often tied to their group membership.

For example, women are often stereotyped as communal (for example, warm, kind and sympathetic) and more suitable for support roles, as compared to men, who are more often considered for leadership positions. Because of this, as women start to progress in their careers and climb the corporate ladder, they can face increasing pressure to disprove the negative and discouraging stereotypes about women and leadership success. The pressure mounts the more underrepresented women are in comparison to men – such as at the top levels of many organisations – as their numerical minority status exposes them to heightened scrutiny and judgment from others.

This fear of confirming negative stereotypes about an identity you hold is called ‘stereotype threat’. Stereotype threat can be experienced as in-the-moment distracting anxieties and concerns that can undermine performance on a given task or activity (such as giving a high-stakes speech or presentation). It can also be experienced as chronic long-term disengagement, where the constant pressure and burden to not confirm stereotypes can eventually take their toll.

Threats for members of majority groups

Members of majority groups often enjoy something akin to the opposite of stereotype threat whereby their group identity serves as a consistent source of inclusion and comfort. For example, while women in historically masculine professions may worry whether, by virtue of their gender, they can belong, men in these contexts rarely have to think of their gender as a factor in their sense of ‘fit’ at work. In academic terms, we say that majority groups are ‘prototypical’ – being strongly associated with the broader context in which they exist (for example, in their organisation or profession) and setting the norms to which other groups are expected to conform to.

Although being prototypical affords members of majority groups a sense of comfort, this can quickly fade when change is on the horizon. If members of majority groups see the representation of minority groups increasing, they may experience prototypicality threat. Members of majority groups experiencing this threat may fear that their default sense of belonging will be lost and that they will soon be the ones who feel like outsiders. This fear that their comfort and security may be lost is a powerful driver of members of dominant groups’ resistance to diversity efforts and prejudice against minority groups.

Recommendations for reducing identity threats

Once organisations become aware of these identity threats, they will want to act to reduce them. Fortunately, the awareness of these threats alone is a great first step.

Research shows that members of minority groups who experience stereotype threat are more motivated to improve diversity climates. Organisations might think about giving minority voices a safe forum to acknowledge and share these firsthand experiences with stereotype threat. This is one way to raise awareness, normalise these discussions, and galvanise change.

Visibly highlighting the success of various minority employees can also be helpful, as role models have been found to have a protective effect against the pernicious effects of stereotype threat. This is due to the inspiring and empowering effect of seeing someone who looks like you achieve success. Additionally, visible examples of successful minorities can relieve the burden of any one individual having to prove negative stereotypes wrong. While these are good measures to include in DEI efforts, the responsibility to reduce these threats shouldn’t fall solely on the minority groups who are already facing an undue share of barriers.

To reduce prototypicality threat among members of majority groups, and thus forestall backlash against DEI efforts, organisations must also act proactively. Research shows that the more members of a majority/dominant group believe that their overrepresentation is legitimate, the more susceptible they are to feeling threatened by an increase in diversity.

One way that organisations may unintentionally lend legitimacy to dominant group prototypicality is by defining success in terms of traits that are stereotypically associated with the dominant group. For example, historically masculine professions might overemphasise the importance of assertiveness and strength, etc., in things like employee evaluations and recruiting materials that communicate what it takes to be a good employee. Making sure the definition of the organisation as a whole doesn’t align with the stereotypes of the majority group will help dispel myths that the majority group is naturally better suited for their job.

As we move towards more diverse and inclusive workplaces, organisations should be aware of these identity threats and strive to reduce their impact. By focusing only on highly accessible and obvious sources of tension, such as explicit prejudice, or anxiety about competition over jobs, organisations run the risk of overlooking the powerful undercurrent of identity threats and the negative psychological and interpersonal outcomes that can follow.

Clarissa Cortland and Felix Danbold are Assistant Professors in the Organisations and Innovation Group at University College London School of Management.

Increasing the reach and reputation of quality management education in Asia

Here is the front cover of the Business Impact Magazine 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).

Why the pandemic should drive sustainable business

A person is peeling the sky like a chapter from a book, from dark, gloomy clouds to bright sunshine; symbolic to revealing positive change to sustainability.

The fallout from Covid-19 gives governments a degree of leverage over corporations. They should use it to impose the sustainability agenda, says Rotterdam School of Management’s Frank Wijen

With the ongoing rollout of vaccination campaigns, governments are now in a significantly better position to plan for our economic recovery, and hopefully a new and better future. 

There is no doubt that the spread of Covid-19 will continue to cause distress and chaos globally – in addition to the immediate impact on human health, the future continuity of millions of firms is on the line, threatening massive unemployment. Yet, although there are redundancies looming and the pandemic continues to cause havoc – amplified by constraining government measures – the fallout from Covid-19 has actually created an exceptional opportunity to change the world for the good. 

Many governments have provided massive levels of support to affected firms and their workers to stave off a tsunami of bankruptcies and job losses. This is truly laudable, since we have learned from the crisis of the 1930s that non-intervention will entail a vicious circle of further economic sliding. 

Halting economic decline is an important, yet insufficient, public policy objective on its own, because an upcoming economic crisis is likely to be followed by an even larger environmental crisis, with disastrous effects dwarfing those triggered by Covid-19. 

While many environmental issues threaten continued economic prosperity, the cost of inadequate efforts to curb climate change will be huge and will undermine future economic activities – as has been outlined by noted economist, Nicholas Stern, whose 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change covers the intertemporal costs and benefits of (in)action. Therefore, to best protect our economic futures, governments need to kill at least two birds with the huge stone they are throwing into the economy. 

Rethinking and reinventing

In my opinion, firms with sizeable carbon footprints should be required to vastly reduce their emissions in return for state support. In other words, governments should demand a quid pro quo, in that recipients of state aid promise to clean up their act, literally.

Energy company, Shell, for example, should be told that it will receive help for hydro, solar, and offshore wind projects, but not for traditional oil exploration, production, refining, and distribution. Similarly, airlines should only be rescued if they cease short-haul flights for which public transport alternatives are feasible, invest in highly energy-efficient aircraft, and accept substantial carbon taxes on all flights.

Farming is another sector that needs to rethink its environmental attitude. We need food, of course, but not at any cost. European farmers have been generously subsidised for decades but continue to burden society with the environmental costs from intensive farming practices, such as huge freshwater withdrawal and nitrogen oxide emissions. Construction is also a highly conservative sector in need of reinventing itself. We need homes to live in, but wooden-framed houses can be just as solid and robust as those erected from brick and concrete while involving much lower levels of carbon emissions. 

Some governments have understood the necessity to make their financial support to distressed firms contingent on environmental measures, while others keep on delaying as the ice melts. Two months after France decided to grant €7 billion EUR to airline, Air France, the Netherlands came to the rescue of KLM with €3.4 billion EUR in state aid. The French government attached green strings to its support of Air France, but the Dutch government still seemed to consider the sky the limit and asked only for symbolic environmental measures. 

Lack of leadership

The importance of attaching sustainability criteria to financial support needs to be interpreted against the backdrop of a lack of business leadership in making sustainability transitions that adversely affect their vested interests. While businesses are great at implementing practices that stimulate both environmental and financial gains (the ‘win-win’ opportunities, such as serving environmental consumers), they shy away from those that adversely affect their ongoing business. And they often focus on the short term. 

For instance, companies owning huge unexploited oil and gas fields will not voluntarily abandon these assets. Shell beats the sustainability drum, and its investments in renewables have recently taken off, but the amounts involved still dwarf those it dedicates to new fossil fuel projects.

History teaches us that huge reductions in greenhouse gas emissions have never resulted from climate change policies alone. They have often been a by-product of public policy decisions or political events, including the UK’s closure of unprofitable coal mines and privatisation of the electricity sector (with the related transition to less-carbon-intensive gas, known as the ‘dash for gas’), German reunification (and the related investments in more energy-efficient factories in Eastern Germany), and – indirectly – the German safety-driven phasing out of nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster (and the ensuing scaling up of renewable energy, whose plummeting production costs in solar and wind power fuelled a global demand for renewables). 

Environmental strides

Since the corporate world is unlikely to adopt game-changing environmental improvements of its own accord, governments must take the lead and impose the sustainability agenda as they rescue firms damaged by the pandemic. 

Necessity is the mother of invention and change, and business will only walk its sustainability talk when forced to do so by ineluctable government requirements. The sustainability transition will only materialise, therefore, through targeted government support, in which economic and environmental recovery operate in lockstep. 

Since governments virtually always prioritise economic stakes over environmental interests, the sustainability agenda will need to piggyback on economic interventions. The exceptionally large amounts of public funding that are about to be poured into the economy provide a unique opportunity to make significant environmental strides while also propping up the economy. In this context, the EU is showing leadership by publicly pledging 30% of its €750 billion EUR post-coronavirus restructuring emergency fund will be financed by the issuance of sustainable bonds. 

Governments can save work, without necessarily saving existing jobs. A significant number of positions will almost certainly cease to exist over the next few years and others that we cannot yet even imagine will emerge. For example, new jobs in developing circular business and managing smart grids. 

One of the key challenges for sustainable growth is to help people and firms adjust to this series of dramatic changes. Business Schools and universities will become vitally important in ensuring a smooth transition here. 

A major threat is that governments will take short-term measures as they give in to powerful business lobbies and eschew measures that might displease their electorates. Unfortunately, unconditional business support is a short-term remedy that fills one hole by deepening another one. The failure to address major environmental problems head-on could well drive the next global disruption, such as a climate crisis of an even larger magnitude. The actions of governments in the next few months will clearly have important implications for the long run. As the French dictum goes: ‘To govern is to anticipate’. Governments with foresight must therefore ensure they attach solid environmental strings when pouring public money into distressed businesses.

What can Business Schools do?

Senior Business School leaders need to recognise the impact climate change will have on businesses and their personal lives, and should work together with their students and the wider business community to help find solutions. 

Companies can provide a powerful incentive for greater Business School focus on sustainability. When executive education directors and careers service directors see this is a serious issue for business clients, action will follow.

Business Schools are training the leaders of tomorrow and have to take responsibility for that. Systemic thinking is about considering the wider and indirect effects of business actions, beyond the direct cause-effects we are used to. These effects are not just financial, and we need to teach good metrics that comprehensively capture socio-environmental outcomes.  Business actions need to go beyond the upcoming quarterly earnings, implying that the mindsets of students need to be adjusted to consider the longer-term implications as well. 

Furthermore, Business Schools with course materials that are predominantly based on North American and European ideas and practices need to develop the openness of mind to understand and support other managerial styles. This includes appreciating that eastern and southern businesses may be run differently while working towards the same sustainability goals. Finally, corporate responsibility needs to be duly incorporated into existing mainstream courses, rather than relegated to standalone ethics courses. In short, Business Schools will need to embrace a much more integrative approach, in which students develop the mindset and skills of systemic, longer-term, and open-minded thinking, acting, and measuring. 

Frank Wijen is an Associate Professor at the Department of Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship, Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University, Netherlands. 

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

Shedding light on MBM admissions and delivery worldwide

Here is a fibre optic lamp in neon pink with a deep blue background.

Exclusive AMBA & BGA research throws light on the performance of MBM programmes on offer at leading Business Schools across the world. Ellen Buchan delves into the details

A major driver behind students’ enrolment on master’s in business management (MBM) programmes is the desire to develop a better understanding of technology and its impact on management practices. This was a standout finding of AMBA & BGA’s study of application and enrolment data for MBM programmes around the world last year, as reported in Business Impact in February 2020. The significant demand for MBMs in India was another result highlighted in this research.   

A year on, and for the second iteration of this research, Business Impact was able to analyse data from Business Schools in relation to their MBM application and enrolment data from the calendar years of both 2018 and 2019. This offered a fresh opportunity to identify trends in the sector on a like-for-like basis. 

A total of 46 Schools – all of which are accredited by BGA’s sister organisation, the Association of MBAs (AMBA) – submitted MBM data for both 2018 and 2019, and it is the data from those Schools on which the following research is based. 

Continuing demand in India

Applications per Business School were up by 5% between 2018 and 2019 across all responding MBM programmes. There was no change in the volume of applications per programme received in the same timeframe.  

The sheer scale of demand for MBMs in India continues, as applications received by programmes in the south Asian country represented 88% of all applications to MBMs in 2019, worldwide. Applications in India, meanwhile, grew 10% per programme and 5% per School between 2018 and 2019. 

Elsewhere, Business Schools in the UK also reported a substantial increase, with applications up by 22% per programme and 34% per School between 2018 and 2019. Schools in the UK accounted for 3% of overall volume of MBM programme applications reported in 2019. 

Between 2018 and 2019, there were also rises in the number of students enrolling globally, by 5% per programme and 10% per School. MBMs in the UK reported the world’s largest increase in enrolments, with a 10% increase per programme and a 21% increase in enrolments per School. 

Blended learning on the rise

There was no significant change in the mode of delivery for MBM programmes between 2018 and 2019. Globally, the majority (83%) of AMBA-accredited Schools’ MBM programmes were taught in the classroom in 2019. Almost all of the remaining programmes were taught using a blended approach (16%) while 1% of programmes were delivered fully online in 2019. This represents a three-percentage point increase in the use of blended learning, at the expense of classroom delivery from 2018. 

In North America and the Caribbean, 92% of programmes included in the study were delivered using a blended approach in 2019. Among MBMs in Europe, the equivalent figure was 24%. This represents a four-percentage point increase in the use of blended learning in both these regions from 2018. 

Gender diversity in MBM programmes 

Globally, the proportion of women among those applying to MBM programmes in 2019 was 37% – an increase of one percentage point on 2018. The global enrolment rate was far more gender-balanced – 47% of those enrolling globally in 2019 were female, although this same figure was also applicable in 2018. Looking regionally, however, shows that Business Schools in India and Europe were the only Schools to enrol a minority of women on their MBM courses in 2019. In Europe, 48% of those enrolling identified as female, while the proportion among Schools in India was 33% – significantly lower, but an increase of three percentage points on the country’s equivalent figure for 2018. 

International and domestic applications and enrolments

More than nine out of 10 (95%) of applications to MBM programmes included in the study came from domestic students in 2019 – the vast majority. However, this global percentage hides significant variations between different countries and regions. Business Schools in India received 100% of applications from domestic students – pushing up the overall average. Even so, Schools based in China (including Hong Kong, China), Europe, and North America and the Caribbean, all received more than 80% of their MBM applications from domestic candidates. However, at Business Schools based in the UK and Oceania, the reverse was true, with 97% of applications to MBM programmes in each region coming from international applicants.

The global picture on MBM enrolment is quite different, with international students representing a third of all enrolments in 2019, up from 30% in 2018. As such, the conversion rate for international students was far higher in some regions than for domestic students. In Europe (excluding the UK), for example, international candidates represented 16% of applications, but 28% of those who enrolled. In North America and Caribbean, 10% of applications came from international applicants, but 19% of students enrolling were defined as international.


The news is positive for providers of MBMs from within the AMBA network. Although there was no growth in applications per programme, there was a notable rise of 5% in enrolments per programme.  

In addition, applications and enrolments to a Business School’s full portfolio of eligible degrees were up by 5% and 10%, respectively – a sign perhaps of the increasing number of study options on offer to prospective students and the extent to which these resonated with their intended audience, ahead of the turbulence of the year 2020.  


The AMBA & BGA Application and Enrolment Report 2020 outlines the current status of the MBA market. As part of the data compiled for the report, 58 AMBA-accredited Business Schools also provided data on their portfolio of master’s in business management programmes (commonly known as MBMs or MiMs). 

Of the 58 Schools that provided data on their master’s programmes in 2019, 46 had also supplied data for 2018 in the previous year, allowing for a year-on-year comparison between the same Schools. This analysis covered 140 programmes in 2019, rising from 133 programmes in 2018. MBM programmes in this like-for-like analysis were delivered at Business Schools based in the following locations: Europe (excluding the UK) (37%); the UK (28%); India (17%); China (including Hong Kong, China) (7%); North America and the Caribbean (4%); Oceania (4%); and Africa (2%). No data was collected from Schools in Asia (excluding India and China) and the Middle East.

This article is adapted from an original feature in 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).