When I started my PhD, the academics at Leicester published a great book call Manifestos for the Business School of Tomorrow. It is a maddening and brilliant read that seems largely forgotten now. Aside from some inspirational ideas (like a rotation matrix curriculum) it represents a hope that business education could be different and it could be good. We don’t need to “Shut down the Business School” as one of the authors of the Manifestos now argues. We need to improve it.
Here’s an image of a business school I’ve been thinking about. I call it the business school with a purpose. It is designed around two driving principles: 1. The world needs good administrators (leaders, managers, marketers, accountants whatever) not morons who have learnt a few textbooks; 2. A school should improve its students – posh boys already have Oxbridge.
Who comes in?
The business school with a purpose believes that where you come from is important. It shapes your life chances positively and negative. The business school with a purpose wants to take those who have negative chances and give them a leg up. We will focus out efforts on targeting students from disadvantaged backgrounds. All applicants will be interviewed and must complete aptitude and reflective tests. We will ignore A-Level results.
How many students come in?
The business school with a purpose will have strict limits on academic and administrative staff-student ratios. It won’t look to grow, just improve. This means taking seemingly “worse” students each year and improving their academic performance and life chances. As long as we break-even, that’s good enough. Universities can find another way to pay for their medical schools and new buildings.
What do we teach?
The business school with a purpose accepts that students need to know things. It’s no good turning up for a job at a bank blabbing about Derrida if you don’t know the difference between net and gross profit. But the business school with a purpose believes, equally, that there’s no point turning up for a job at a bank just blabbing on about net profit if you don’t know who Derrida is. That’s what Warwick Business School is for. Students must empathise with, care for and be inspired by the world around them. As well as teaching core business disciplines (economics, administration, marketing, accounting, finance) all students will take classes on art, culture, cuisine, history, philosophy, lierature and sociology.
How do we teach?
Homemade pizza is just better – as long as you know how to make pizza properly. The business school with a purpose believes that academic staff need to show students how to think. These means students need to see staff think. Modern pedagogy like “flipped classrooms” are poor substitutes for this. Lectures, seminars, tutorials and discussion groups are best.
The business school with a purpose is suspicious of educational technology. Any tools and techniques we teach will be open to all. We will not pay for licensed software. We will not teach proprietary software.
The book is not dead. The business school of tomorrow will be demand that students read, listen, debate and write – all the time. A student that isn’t studying isn’t a student. Attendance will be strictly monitored. Laggards will be kicked out.
The business school with a purpose is an open organisation, we will welcome outsiders to speak to our students from business, activism, art and civil society. In addition to their studies, all students will be required to engage in volunteer work for an organisation of their choice throughout their studies.
The business school with a purpose has no interest in accreditation, student satisfaction surveys nor rankings. When you know you are the best, you don’t need to worry about keeping score. But we will monitor the life courses of our students. If students pay us tuition, we need to help them pay it. The business school with a purpose will only be successful when every graduate walks into the job they want at the end of their studies.
The business school with a purpose believes in the power of good coffee. Starbucks, Nespresso machines are not good coffee. Good coffee is made by the person who is going to drink it with a kettle and a spoon.