Reigniting growth after the global financial crisis

Reigniting growth after the global financial crisis

This remains the underlying priority for the British government.

Against the backdrop of significant macroeconomic challenges, microeconomic levers to promote growth and innovation have become increasingly prominent in policy debates.

Successive reports from Lord Heseltine and Lord Young have focused attention on providing the economic infrastructure to support the small to mid-sized business community and generating the local conditions conducive to rebalancing the economy away from over dependence on the City.

Integral to such an agenda is the recognition of the need to exploit the capabilities of existing institutions rather than engaging, yet again, in the creation of new agencies. Against this backdrop business schools have the potential to play a very significant role, to act in the words of Tim Wilson as local economic anchor institutions.

Realising the potential of business schools

Despite the unquestionable success of the UK business school community, it is evident that the full potential of business schools to support innovation and stimulate growth has not been realised.

That there are examples of outstanding practice is indisputable. What is equally clear is that engagement of individual business schools with this agenda both at local and national level has been variable.

Given the prevailing performance metrics and the competing demands on, or opportunities for, business schools such variability is not surprising. It has to be acknowledged nevertheless that this variable engagement also reflects significant debate within the business school community as to the role and orientation of business schools.

That debate, however, is now playing out against a radically different backdrop from that which business schools have faced over the past decade. The collateral impact of the financial crisis in terms of changes to the undergraduate fee regime, declining corporate spend on management development and changes to research funding, including both the impact agenda and the prioritisation of STEM research, are necessitating a reconsideration of the function and operation of business schools.

Developing the knowledge-based economy

This unfolding debate, in which the Association of Business Schools (ABS) is playing a central role, has as a result of engaging with policy makers, both highlighted the potential contribution of business schools to economic recovery and generated new opportunities for business schools within the post-crisis economic and policy environment.

This commitment is reflective of our member schools shared belief in the role of business schools within the wider community as key economic players. Our members make significant contributions to their regional economies and the broader national economy beyond the direct generation of export earnings.

Encompassing the production of the type and calibre of graduates required by an innovative knowledge based economy, the management development support necessary for British business to be competitive on the global stage, and research that spans the spectrum from underpinning new business models to improving operational systems and processes, the business school community provides important props for the British economy.

Yet there is more, much more, that business schools can do to provide support to the business community that will transform the economic fortunes of the country.

With the willingness of the business schools to embrace this agenda and the support of politicians to provide the appropriate policy frameworks, British business schools can not only consolidate their leading international position but make a transformational contribution to British economic performance.

Professor Angus Laing is Dean of the School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University and Chair of the Association of Business Schools

[Picture credit: Xandert]

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