Management Education and Development in the United Kingdom - Page 2

Rationale for Research

The author was fortunate to have experienced a premier management educational process in the UK up to MBA level and beyond. Running adjacent to that experience, was his employment in a blue chip multi-national company, managing people and operations over a considerable number of years. Based on these two life experiences, he formed the view that a disparity existed between definition and doing. A discernible disparity between what was being taught in UK business schools and the perceived needs of contemporary organisations. Not only the ‘what’, but the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ stimulated questions regarding both curriculum content and teaching methodology. Based on this view, a hypothesis was developed and study commences in the early part of 1999 in order to test that hypothesis.

As research progressed it, became apparent that this view or hypothesis was held by a number of practitioners in the field of management education and development. Below are a number of comment summations from personnel involved in the area of business and management education and development. These views go someway towards supporting the author’s belief that a disparity exists between definition and doing.

Brain Redfern of the Foundation for Management Education at a recent workshop, reminded the participants of the role the foundation played in the establishment of the London School of Business and the Manchester Business School in the early 1960’s. He also alluded to the foundation’s continued role in attempting to bridge the gap between research in management and the needs of managers. The role of the research assessment exercises in encouraging academically rigorous, but not necessarily relevant research was recognised, and a call was made for more collaboration rather than competition between researchers and their schools.

David Tranfield of Cranfield School of Management, summarised the debate about the type of research in management, pointing to the development of the British Academy of Management’s research policy, whereby researchers are encouraged to set problems in the context of application, employ trans-disciplinary approaches, collaborate rather than compete and facilitate dissemination through joint production with researcher users.

Patrick Tissington, a practising management consultant lecturer at Aston University, outlined the research in which he was currently involved. This was applying academic theories to specific management problems. He presented the view that, in the main, consultants are generally seen as ‘knowledge brokers’ who translate academic work for consumption by practitioners.

The final speaker at the workshop was Sir Adrian Cadbury, who again called for more joint production of knowledge in partnership between academic researchers and management practitioners. Closing the gathering, Robin Wensley of Warwick Business School, commented on the recently announced ESRC Management Research Initiative, designed specifically to contribute to improving management performance in the United Kingdom.
The above contributions would suggest that the subject of management education and development in the U.K. and the applicability of that education and development are worthy of investigation and study.

Historical context; U.K. Management Education and Development

The purpose of this section is to outline the historical backcloth of management education and development in the U.K. The outline includes details of the major influencing institutions associated with the initiation, development, monitoring and application of management education and development programmes in the UK. The contributing organisations are the Association of Business Schools, The Association of Master in Business Administration, The British Academy of Management and the Quality Assurance Agency.

In the early part of this century, a few universities offered a number of commerce degrees. This fact contrasted to what transpired in the USA, where business schools were being established in the latter part of the 19th century, considerably ahead of the UK.
In the United States, business schools and the ‘science’ of management have been active for over a century. The first was founded by Joseph Warton at the University of Pennsylvania in 1881. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, there were far more Europeans studying for MBA’s in the U.S.A. than in Europe. It was not until 1979, following a highly critical report by Charles Handy on management education, that the British Government changed their position and decided to permit any university to develop its own MBA programme.

The US continues to be the major player in the field of management education with more than 600 MBA programmes, 70,000 full time and 15,000 part time MBA students. In the UK there are more than 100 business schools, over 70 in France and 20 in Germany.
The considerable pedigree of U.S. business schools did not inhibit debate during the early part of the 20th century between the two premier American Universities, Harvard and Stanford, as to which teaching methodology should be used to educate managers.
This debate centred within the areas of theory and practice and continues to cause differences amongst management educators and developers up to the present day.

Significant interest in the education of managers in the UK was not apparently in evidence in the U.K. until after the Second World War.
In the absence of any significant national business school infrastructure support, several larger companies such as Shell, Unilever and ICI provided in house management education training and development. It was not until the early 1960’s that a small group of leaders recognised this shortfall and established the Foundation for Management Education. Subsequently, in 1963, a report into higher education under the chairmanship of Lord Robbins, prepared the way for the institutionalisation of management education and development in the UK.

Following on from the Robbin’s report, an associate, Lord Franks, was invited to advise on the actual geographic location and academic relationships of the first business schools in the UK.
Many factors, including political, societal and demographic, were considered in the determination of siting and linkage with established academic establishments.The outcome was, that two major business schools were established. One associated jointly with the London School of Economics and the Imperial College of the University of London and the other with Manchester University.
It was duly recognised even at this early stage that the subject of management education and development was complex in nature. The Robbins report stated ;

education for management as such, is a subject of considerable complexity, and opinion is divided on what methods of training are proper.

However, the Robbins Report contained a recommended strategy as to how higher education should proceed over subsequent years. It also recognised the importance of the role of management education in the context of future economic well- being, in an increasingly competitive world. A government paper, (at the time of publication, outlined salient points extrapolated from the full report,

… The Government believes that this report provides an opportunity to set the course of higher education in this country for a generation.
… The basic assumption of the Report is that courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so.
… In order to meet the rapidly growing number of qualified students as the bulge in the post-war birth rate reaches its peak, we shall seek to accelerate the University expansion already taking place. The new objective, to be achieved in 1967-68, as recommended by Lord Robbins and his Committee will be 197,000 full time students in institutions of University status and 328,000 in all higher education.
… The immediate operation will be the first step in formulating a ten-year programme for the 3900,000 full- time higher education places in universities and Technical Colleges by 1973-74, which is the recommendation in the report. Of this total, 218,000 will be in institutions of University status. This ten-year programme will take account of the need for further expansion after 1973-74. The Committee make it clear that although they make estimates for 1980-81, these are not put forward as the basis for an immediate commitment of effort and resources.
… The cost of the ten-year programme, including the immediate emergency expansion, is estimated at £350,000million. This implies more than doubling the annual cost of higher education in ten years. … Moreover it is important to keep this programme in proper relationship with the development of school and technical education. The urgent requirement is to provide enough places while the bulge is reaching university age.
Decisions are also required on the future pattern of higher education in the light of this report.
… The Government strongly endorses the Report’s emphasis on the building up of technological Universities and the development of management studies
In the field of advanced further education outside the Universities, the Government welcomes the Committee’s recommendation for the establishment of a Council for National Academic Awards, which will administer degree courses for students in non-university institutions.
… The Government will also make a full review of higher education and student finance in the light of recommendations put forward in the report.

As a direct consequence of the Robbins Report, Lord Franks was requested to focus on the needs of business and management education requirements in the UK. The outcome was a succinct document detailing what should be actioned immediately, medium and long term. The recommendations are detailed below.

These two seminal reports, Robbins and Franks, carried out in the 1960’s were the precursors to further inquiries as the growth in higher education (including management education) proceeded to spiral from two business schools in the mid sixties to over one hundred as we entered the new millennium. Inquiries and reports continued to address the ever-changing demands of a rapidly changing business environment. Robbins and Franks (1963), Margham & Silver (1986), Handy (1987), Constable & McCormack (1987), Owen (1989), Garrick (1989) and most recently Dearing (1993), investigated the world of higher education and management education and development. Considerable efforts were applied towards seeking what was appropriate for the achievement and maintenance of a global competitive position.

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