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Management Education and Development in the United Kingdom - Page 5

Perceived Issues

Almost half a century after the Robbins and Franks reports, the major influencing bodies remain divided and lack a common strategy for management education and development. As a consequence, it is arguable, the UK continues to suffer from the absence of a national framework guiding this important area of national interest. However, government stimulated developments in 2002, in the form of a wide ranging inquiry into the area of management education and development in the UK may conceivably address the many short comings in this important field.

From the mid 1960's to the late 1990's, there have been a compounding number of government and privately funded inquiries established, to examine the machinations of higher education (including management education), in terms of quality, funding and efficacy.
The debate around the need for management education and development in 1963 bears a close resemblance to events in 2002. In the 1960’s the urgency for more and better education and training facilities for managers was stressed to the Franks committee time and time again. Reference was made to the accelerating pace of technological innovation, with its destructive impact on habitual work methods and ideas. Not at all dissimilar to contemporary debates concerning the impact on people and organisations of information communication technology and the management of change.

These factors influenced and emphasised the value of management education and development, which would provide industry and commerce with managers better equipped to deal with the demands of a rapidly changing business environment. Lord Franks likened the need for a premier management education and development strategy to the ethos of medical training. Those convictions he said, had sprung from the fact that business management was an intelligent form of human activity, neither intellectual nor academic, but practical in nature. Just as the modern surgeon has to know things, possess a range of skills, be disciplined, exercised and trained in how to apply his knowledge and competence, so increasingly the manager of today, (1963), and tomorrow, needs both skills and the knowledge of how to apply them in a practical and enterprising fashion.

In short, the thinking at that time was, that a manager had to be a much more knowledgeable and skilful person in order to be judged competent.
It was also duly recognised at the time of the Franks Report, that transplanting the American Harvard Business School ethos into the UK would not be successful. There was little doubt that a great deal could be learned from this model. Nevertheless, as the successful practices of the leading American Business Schools, particularly since the Second World War had seen fruitful experimentation, in methods and curricula, it was considered, that given the differing cultural backcloths, any attempted transplantation would not sit well with the British tradition.
Some forty years after the Franks Report, the UK is experiencing a burgeoning multi million pound business in management education and development, incorporating over one hundred teaching institutions accommodating not only UK students but a world wide custom base. Given the phenomenal growth in this sector, it seems pertinent to enquire what steps have been instituted, to ensure teaching content remains abreast of requirements in a rapidly changing business world? How does the UK fair against international competition? Is a Darwinian approach to management education still the norm?

The major report on management education in the late 1980’s, by Charles Handy, concluded that most managers in the United States of America, the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Japan were educated to a higher level than in the UK. In addition, these four countries were found to offer formal and systematic policies for continuing education and development. The lack of any consistent and considered long term strategy in the UK continues to evidence itself, with vested interests pulling their separate ways, to the overall detriment of the national good. This far-reaching report proceeded to highlight the fragmented adhocracy of the UK’s approach to management education and development.

Management in Britain has traditionally been more to do with pragmatism than professionalism. Common sense, character and background have been thought more important than education, with experience the only worthwhile school. These things are still widely held to be true, but the complexity of modern business and the rising levels of both education and expectation among younger managers have brought demands for a swing towards professionalism ……… At the same time, management as a skill, has come to be increasingly valued, not only by industry, but by agriculture, health, schools and colleges, voluntary organisations and the Civil Service. No longer do the British assume that anyone with any sense can manage anything.


An all party parliamentary group on management in the UK, under the chairmanship of Tony Colemen, Labour MP for Putney, deliberated on 7th May 2002 at Church House Conference Centre. The extent and current nature of UK management education was outlined at this gathering.

The Quality Assurance Agency, charged with raising standards in higher education, articulates dissatisfaction with present arrangements in this sector.

Postgraduate education (including management education) in the United Kingdom has undergone significant changes over the past decade. The proliferation of postgraduate programmes and qualifications (higher education currently offers approximately 15,000 different post graduate programmes, around 7,000 UK Honours degree courses have business and/or management in the title) has resulted in uncertainty among students, employers and others about the intellectual level, character and outcomes of particular types of programmes and the precise meaning and value of many postgraduate qualification titles being awarded.

Reed and Antony, (1992) concur with this view regarding the unsatisfactory state of management education and development in the UK.

During the 1980’s the state of British management education and training again became the matter for public concern, debate and action. A number of reports, (e.g.) Margham and Silver, (1986), Constable and McCormack, (1987), Handy, (1987), indicated that the range and quality of provision in this area fell well below that of our major economic competitors in America, Europe and Japan.

Macleod, (2000) highlights the existence of a very unclear picture from a contemporary employer’s perspective, stating that eight out of every ten employers are confused by Britain’s plethora of degree titles.

Casey, (1993) observed at first hand the effectiveness of the products of these inchoate institutions in the UK-

I saw the establishment of our first business schools in 1965; Five years later I was asked by the Council of Industry for Management Education to research (with Trevor Owen) the whole question of how British Industry was receiving its first crop of home-grown MBA’s (the answer was not very well, I’m afraid.) The genesis of management education (notice the word ‘education’) was in the academic tradition. The educational model for management teaching was thought to be successful in American Business Schools, which had grown out of their university system. In the UK we began education likewise from our universities and the academic tradition seeped through.

Given this level of attention; ‘inquiry, report’, ‘ inquiry, report’, how far have we progressed in relation to the rest of the world since the presentation of the Franks Report on management education in the early nineteen sixties; the establishing of the first business schools and the subsequent initial crop of home grown MBA’s to what is currently taking place in our management education/teaching institutions? Drawing a comparison between then and now, it may well be, we are perpetuating the chalk and talk strategy applied during those embryonic days of formalised management education.

Referring to the content of the Franks Report, Casey,(1993) commented,

Managers today would be astonished by the curriculum then offered: a long list of ‘essential disciplines’ – economics, mathematics, operations, research, ergonomics, statistics. Today’s managers would be even more surprised by the teaching methods used, basically chalk and talk.

The curriculum offered then, compared with the curriculum offered today, would suggest little has changed in the methodology of how managers in the UK are educated and developed. The Association of Business School’s recommended input for today’s MBA programmes is basically, a long list of essential disciplines, not dissimilar to what was on offer almost forty years ago.

Taking one of the aforementioned study modules as prescribed by the ABS, a brief comparison between rhetoric and practice, myth and reality, definition and doing, highlights the gap between both factors.

• The impact of environmental forces on organisations, including: legal systems; ethical, social, economic and technological change issues; and the effect of international developments. The ability to respond to and manage change should be covered explicitly;

Crowe, (2000), suggests that a gross disparity exists between what is prescribed to be taught in this field and what in fact is taught. This chasm was most certainly evident in the linkage between business schools and the current and future needs of business.
He argued it was axiomatic, that managers of the future would have to be much more aware of the issues surrounding environmental protection. However, in reality there was very little hard evidence of managers being educated in this field. Business schools continued to educate and develop thousands of MBAs from whom tomorrow’s corporate leaders would normally emerge. How adequately are these graduates prepared for the ever-increasing challenges of the business world?
There is apparently an unquestioned acceptance that the challenges facing business are greater than ever and changing faster than ever, yet there appears to be an enormous gap in the management education and development provided by the business schools.

The issues of sustainability, environmental protection and social equity for example, do not appear heavily on the agenda. This fact is considerably amplified in chapter five under analysis of empirical data.
Tomorrow’s business leaders are getting virtually no exposure to these issues, which are likely to be the most complex and significant challenges they will face.

The experience of Monsanto in the late 1990's over genetically modified foods, Shell Oil's battles in the North Sea and Microsoft’s monopoly difficulties with the US authorities, should be enough to convince any management educator that these issues matter. The current raising of awareness of the globalisation phenomenon underpins the absolute necessity for management educators in this field to remain abreast of education and development issues. Many researchers in this field would say the requirement is blindingly obvious.
Governments are still struggling with global problems such as climate change, waste and the concept of global economics. In 10 or 20 years’ time, however, when today’s students take the helms of their companies, they will have to operate with much stricter controls over energy and the use of resources. They will have to grapple with the challenge of growing their businesses while shrinking the impact their operations have on the environment. Added to these factors, they will almost certainly face much closer scrutiny of the way they operate in local and global communities. So why is the rising generation of executives not being educated in these issues?

A detailed analysis of US management education by the World Resources Institute found that a fifth of all MBA programmes in the US have some coverage of social or environmental issues. But most of that was accounted for by superficial consideration of business ethics. The situation throughout the rest of the world is not dissimilar.

There was virtually no teaching in social and environmental issues and barely any research. The WRI noted, in its report Beyond Grey Pinstripes that: ‘As long as environmental and social issues do not permeate the core curriculum they will not strongly influence future managers’.
John Coopley, a Visiting Fellow in Management Learning at Lancaster University produced an academic paper in 2001 detailing the lack of appropriate curriculum content within UK MBA programmes and also discussed a number of reasons for this omission. His research involved reviewing the records of UK Business and Management Schools in creating and disseminating appropriate knowledge that will assist business and other stakeholders to create a more environmentally sustainable mode of economic activity. Analysis of data from this research revealed significant evidence that issues relating to environmental management are at best peripheral to activities within UK business schools.

A number of reasons for this state of affairs are catalogued below.

Coopley (2001) argues that the issue of caring for the environment and adopting a sustainable approach to economic activities is very much of a transdisciplinarity nature.and this concept should be transferred to teachings within MBA programmes. For example, environmental scientists can find technical solutions to some of the problems caused by business activities; business and academics can develop management systems; economists can propose new models of treating the environment in national accounts and accountants can incorporate costs and liabilities into company balance sheets; sociologists can provide a sound critique on which to base key management decisions.
This example is but one of many, highlighting the fact that in many of our management teaching/learning institutions we are compounding mechanistic historic formulaic programmes and not keeping abreast of real world, real time requirements and real organisations.

Handy, (1988), described the prevailing attitude as being that as long as the MBA is regarded by young people as an indispensable asset, the business schools will remain the obvious recruiting ground for talent. The schools themselves, therefore, confronted by eager applicants and recruiters see no immediate need to change what they do. A preoccupation with revenue stream exists at the expense of maintenance and increase of quality standards and goodness of fit. The signals from the market place appear to indicate that the product is right. However, criticisms are serious and business schools are under fire for, ignoring some of the more important aspects of management, human skills, entrepreneurship and internationalism, in favour of the easier to teach analytical skills.

Another factor evident in many MBA programmes is one of fostering undesirable attitudes, short-term thinking and stimulating unrealistic job expectations. Future chapters outline data extrapolated from MBA students and graduates supporting this position. Handy proceeds to expound the view that schools have abandoned the search for fresh intellectual foundations, preferring to codify and interpret current practice, neglecting the traditions and disciplines of history, political theory, philosophy and ethics, scientific method and creative literature.

Mumford (1994) posits the view that substantial research effort is required from business schools. He opined that perhaps the subject is too difficult for the business schools to tackle, because it raises too many questions about the purpose of management education and development. Mumford holds very strong views regarding the associated issues of learning and the effectiveness of that learning. He is not alone in taking this stance. Over the last twenty years the views of Livingston (1971) who declared that formal management education ‘ tends to distort managerial growth because it overdevelops an individual’s analytical ability, but leaves his ability to take action and to achieve objectives underdeveloped’; Similar criticism was reported by Peters and Waterman (1882) and Belram and Levin (1984).

There is a level of optimism that the Management Charter Initiative will stimulate concentration on the issues of management educational effectiveness in the UK, but a more pessimistic outlook is, that the traditional business schools will adhere to the more comfortable status quo offering programmes geared to a view of management education and development as essentially concerned with the identification and application of theory and concepts with all too little emphasis on application.

Handy,(1988) further developed the debate by comparing the fundamentally different educational ideologies between America and the UK. In America, education plays a major part in everyday life. Teachers and professors are respected and academic qualifications desired and sought. It is accepted and perfectly normal for Americans to continue study throughout life. Americans often turn to the universities and colleges for help through research, teaching or consultancy. It was, therefore, quite natural for education to embrace business and management, with the first business schools and degrees in business occurred at the beginning of the 20th century. Given this background, the Americans have been somewhat different from other societies, The difference has its roots in the American culture of self-improvement and in the pervasive educational infrastructure which leaves few untouched.

An exemplary model of how business schools should maintain a cutting edge perspective on their teaching content is reflected in Harvard University’s far seeing strategy. The content, for example, of MBA programmes is updated much more frequently than previously, to support a continuously and rapidly changing business environment. Currently a third of all case studies taught on the MBA programme are newly written each year, ensuring a relevancy to real world activities. A number are gathered directly from its California Research Centre in Silicon Valley. In 2002, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania opened a new case study research centre and executive MBA campus close to Silicon Valley, called Wharton West. In their efforts to keep pace with the requirements and developments of the business world, American schools are reducing course development times to facilitate and accelerate the introduction of classes in new subjects.

Phil Anderson, an associate professor at the Tuck School in New Hampshire, believes the arrival of the new economy represents a profound change in the manager’s role which demands an urgent response. ‘MBA’s now have to learn how to operate in a connected world’, he declared.
Dearlove, (2001), proceeded to describe the new scheme of global thinking. MBA programmes now needed to take account both the more global nature of business and the new economy. New models were emerging. In 2001, for example, the London School of Economics offered an executive MBA called the Trium Programme. The part time programme was offered in partnership with the New York University’s Stern School of Business and Hautes Etudes Commerciaes (HEC) in Paris. This new programme was different, in that it concentrated on the impact of the new economy, ICT and the concept of globalisation. The cost of the programme is prohibitively expensive at approximately £60,000. Its objective was to integrate learning in the field of international, economic, political and social policy. It is expected this would align learning with a new business reality. The total cost of the programme included an international residential facility.

In the UK, the majority of business schools have yet to feel the full impact of the new economy.
Its urgency initially took America by surprise. The reverberations will most certainly be felt sooner rather than later in the European forum.
Although the tradition culture and ethos of the successful American business school model has much to offer, a recognised success story in Europe is the Open University Business School. This institution is accredited by the association of MBA’s and also EQUIS. A recent article quantified the university’s output. Dearlove, (2001) writes,

The Open University Business School, Europe’s biggest, is celebrating the graduation of 804 distance-learning MBA students. The students, who will graduate at 28 ceremonies over the next five months, have studied in more than fifteen countries and swell the ranks of OUBS alumni to more than 9000 in the UK. 20% of all MBA students are studying with the OUBS.

Questions continue to percolate to the fore as to the quality and methodology of educating and developing managers in the UK. Sir Michael Bichard, the former Permanent Secretary of State at the Department of Education and Skills, now the Rector of the London Institute, opened an all party debate in the House of Commons, June 2002, on Britain’s management education system. He stated that there was a lack of fit between what is taught on MBAs- busines/management first degrees and what managers need. Cited during the debate was the fact that recent data indicated the international content taught in the UK received the lowest satisfaction rating from programme participants. A counter argument was expounded by Professor Stephen Watson, Principal of Henley Management College who although agreeing there was indeed great potential for doing considerably more in this area, defended UK business schools. The importance of teaching cultural sensitivity and international business matters was stressed during the debate and practical examples of how this was being done were highlighted. Michael Osbaldeston, Head of Global learning at Shell, communicated Shell’s personnel strategy and the company’s belief of building a strong affiliation between employees and the organisation.

In discussion as to the future direction of UK business schools, Quacquarelli (2001) relates the argument presented by a leading academic in this field. David Norburn, Dean of the Management School at Imperial College is of the opinion that there has never been a better time to institute an entrepreneurial MBA. He believed an acute focus should be directed towards a back to technology philosophy. Imperial College supported this viewpoint with funding consisting of £2million of government finance, a £4million seed fund, plus £1million in prize money, for entrepreneurs to effect a relationship between technological ideas and the market. One of the few examples of commendable linkages between learning institutions and the workplace.

It has been argued the real problem with business management education is the tenuous linkage between the various abstractions applied to the area and the actual work of managers. As a result of this disconnection, the area of management education has many claimants. Psychology, sociology, administration, economics, law, banking, accountancy and other professions all claim influence in business management.

Given this labyrinthine yet rigid framework of management education and development processes in the UK, coupled with numerous governing vested interests of influencing factors, in presenting an advocacy for a more ‘non formulaic’ approach to management education, it may be worth considering the Greek philosopher Plato’s conceptualisation of a teaching/learning paradigm.

As the aim of this education was to develop knowledge of underlying principles, and as this knowledge cannot be gained simply by reciting them, understanding must emerge from reflection on all that is experienced. Learning how to reflect or to think was thus the core aim of education over and above its practical utility.

Compare this philosophical position with one of business and management disciplines, in many cases, apparently cultivating a robotic systemised MBA graduate exiting the learning programme, having experienced the mandatory ‘sheep dip’ process, gaining a badge and being ‘productive’ from first day on the payroll.

Wade, (2000), details this expectation as the norm, and his argument bears some examination

The most respected MBA’s insist on a minimum of about five years working background, which lifts the average age of their students to around 30 ….. Wade also discerns a shift in the attitude of employers towards MBA programmes. They have been moving away from linking more theoretically based academic courses with exams. Instead, they are showing a strong preference for those MBA’s which are action based, contain a lot of interaction with real companies and allow students to undertake project work. Firms want MBA graduates who can be productive from their first day on the payroll.

Are we in danger of becoming so immersed in the practical utility of management education and development that a philosophy akin to ‘Talyorism’ is beginning to play an predominant role? Although Taylor’s dogma of scientific management propelled the development of an enormously powerful industrial machine that was the standard and envy of the world, it was not his concern or strategy to enhance an employee’s quality of life. Rather, the intent of his system of management was to organise and systemise the process by which a product was made. This was effected by ensuring that roles and responsibilities were clear and measurable in order that production was maximised. This method certainly met that objective but clearly not without detrimental ramifications when dealing with managing people and operations in the longer term. A view prevails that there is a distinct possibility of contemporary management education and development programmes stimulating this systemised and constricting philosophy.

How much emphasis should be placed on qualitative factors in the education and development process? Reed and Antony, (1992.) outline this often-neglected area of educating and developing managers of people,

If managers are to maintain the integrity of the organisation as a viable community and the ethos and political foundations on which it rests, then their education must provide crucial assistance to them in performing this role.

The thrust of management education and development should not be purely a matter of mobilising factors of production or/and service, but mobilising hearts and minds, stimulating high moral standards of management and equitable and ethical treatment of people. The objective of achieving high ethical standards in business should be integral within an MBA programme and not the total acceptance of fiscal gain as the singular bottom line. There needs to take place a quantum step change in the manner we educate our managers to satisfy these ‘softer,’ but nevertheless extremely important facets of management. There is a considered argument that the attainment of this state will require a fundamental severing with the sedimented traditional approach of management education which has become embedded within the contextual culture of the UK since the time of the industrial revolution.

It may well be that these traditions need an ideological and intellectual challenge. The pivotal role of higher education and business schools in this field in the formation of management as a recognised profession should not be overlooked.
Over a decade ago, the then, Director of the MSC ( Manpower Services Commission) Geoffrey Holland recognised there needed to take place a quantum leap in the philosophy of educating and developing our managers in the UK. He argued, if we are to survive individually or as companies, or as a country, we must exert efforts and create a tradition of learning companies. An ethos of earn and learn must be effected. Around about the same time, the Rover Car Company was embarking down the road of becoming a learning company. Graham Day, Chairman of the Rover Group advocated learning and development opportunities is made available, not only to managers but also to all 40,000 employees. There was a ready admission that Rover as a company considered there was only one way to run a car company. Collaboration with Honda widened that view. The realisation that by encouraging continuous learning and development among all employees they will start to question more and more the way management manage things. If a strategy of educating and developing managers is sufficiently robust, then they will be in a position to appropriately respond to this new positioning.

Easterby-Smith (1994) opined that the distinction between management training, education and development was becoming increasingly blurred. He concluded that in view of that state, many organisations are more proactive in linking internal training with external accreditation, particularly with respect to MBA’s and managers were gaining nationally recognised qualifications verified by councils such as NCVQ and the MCI.

Wade, (2000) writes that business and management disciplines dominate British Universities as never before. The latest figures released by the Association of Business Schools, representing over one hundred business schools, indicate about 12% of undergraduates are studying business and management degrees, while in the post graduate sector the number is higher at over sixteen percent. More students by far, opt for business than any other subject.
The UK, as a nation, needs to ensure the cultivation of fertile fields, for this increasingly scattered seed to stimulate the tropical growth of prosperity.

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