My week - 17 February 2014

Dean of LUBS Peter Moizer reflects on international partnerships and collaboration at conferences in Gothenburg and San Francisco.

Professor Peter Moizer

In writing ‘My Week’, I found myself aware of the great complexity with which we now have to work in higher education. Deans previously would not have found themselves scrambling around on the morning of a conference, trying to get a decent photograph for a Twitter post and fretting that Gothenburg’s grey and gloomy landscape was not photogenic enough!

Two business school Dean conferences take place every January hosted by the two major accrediting bodies EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) and AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business). One reason to attend both is that in 2014, LUBS is being visited by peer review teams from both EQUIS and AACSB and it was a good occasion to meet some of the reviewers.  We are pursuing the prestigious ‘triple crown’ of accreditation (AMBA being the third), and this should be the year we succeed.

These conferences are good for networking events. Last year, the AACSB conference allowed me to start discussions with two AACSB US business schools with whom we have subsequently partnered. One outcome is that we will be running the University of Leeds’ first ever dual degree next year (the Global MSC in International Business, launching in Georgia, USA in January 2015). This year I focused on creating a strategic partnership with an Australian business school and have linked up with two Australian Deans to talk about research and student education synergies, which will be progressed in the coming months.

The first conference was the 2014 European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) Conference for Deans (parent body of EQUIS) in Gothenburg, Sweden, which attracted 300 business school leaders from all over the world.  Gothenburg held three key plenaries.

Skills and Mobility in European Higher Education, from Cecilia Malmström, European Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs, looked at the EU’s policy on “trans-national boundaries and the global movement of students and academics with a special focus on skills in Europe.” UK deans raised points about a lack of support from the UK government, and even that it was actively discouraging non-EU citizens from coming to Britain.

Plenary II consisted of panel responding to an address from Adrian Wooldridge, Management Editor of the Economist, on What’s Next for Management Education. Wooldridge unleashed a stream of criticism at business schools: they are too slow, not sufficiently focused on educating students on the current realities, conducting research which is too far from real business situations and being pre-occupied with publishing incremental insights in slow academic journals with only a modest impact.  Richard Straub, president of the Global Peter Drucker Forum, commented that business schools suffer from the syndrome of not wanting to change what is perceived to be a winning model.  One of the interesting features of this debate, was that the audience was encouraged to tweet their views using the hashtag for the conference.  I was sucked into this process and sent several tweets.  It was fascinating to see how the arguments were developing both on stage and in the audience.  The chair of the panel was also reading the tweets and commenting on them, which created a sense of audience participation I'd not experienced before.

The final EQUIS plenary tackled sustainability as a driving force within industry, with Tom Johnstone, President and CEO of SKF. His company makes ball-bearings, a tiny item subsumed within the machinery of other people’s  products, but the lengths to which SKF go in order to place sustainability at the heart of their business was truly admirable.  This chimed with the work of a recently established Standing Group for Ethics, Responsibility and Sustainability within LUBS, chaired by the Pro-Dean for Student Education, and including both staff and student representatives. I was reminded of the excellent blog to be posted soon by one of our Corporate Social Responsibility interns, on the work she has done with University partner Marks & Spencer.

In Gothenburg I also attended a meeting of the five European Deans who were at the conference, whose schools were part of ACE alliance. This is an alliance of 20 Chinese and European business schools and LUBS represents the UK.  

More flights, to find that San Francisco was equally as cloudy and grey as Europe, and I spent my Sunday afternoon doing some sightseeing before the AACSB conference - strolling along the Embarcadero (translated as ‘the place to embark’, which I am now quite keen on using as the LUBS tag line!) and taking in the Bay Bridge, and Fisherman’s Wharf. The conference organisers were holding a Super Bowl reception, so I was able to chat and watch the country’s biggest game, with the Seattle Seahawks convincingly winning their first Super Bowl title against the favoured Denver Broncos.  The AACSB conference was a much larger affair than its European equivalent, with over 600 Deans and directors.  It also had three fascinating plenary sessions which complemented the EFMD conference.  The first was entitled Developing Creative Confidence which looked at how creative talent is developed and how we can help people develop the confidence in their innate creative abilities. This is a key skill for leadership and in helping people design solutions to global challenges. The Stanford D School was mentioned as somewhere where design skills and business skills were integrated.  It prompted me to reflect on the need to set up meeting with the School of Design in Leeds.

On Monday I and other non-US Deans were invited to visit the San Francisco premises of Babson College, based in Boston. Having branches in other cities is a feature of top US schools.  However, I'm not convinced such a strategy would work in the UK and am keenly following the fate fate of the London campus of the Liverpool Business School.

Daphne Koller (Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Coursera, and Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University) talked about the philosophy behind setting up online education which we now know as MOOCS. The original intention was to provide free education to those in the developing world, but it has now grown beyond that remit and challenges existing institutions to justify the traditional model of student participation on campus, rather than by working at home on a computer.  I think we can articulate why we provide a better overall student experience in relation to the skills we provide (teamworking, presentation, networking, social, leadership, etc) as well as the chance to meet and talk to leading research academics and people from the corporate world.  I can see that within our undergraduate programme that our third year away from the University, either as a year in industry or a year at a business school outside the UK, is something that can only become increasingly attractive.  

The conference finished at lunch and then I and a fellow Dean took a streetcar up the hill and down to Fisherman’s Wharf, before the final flight home to London’s tube strike.


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