Highlights from the Chartered Association of Business Schools’ Annual Conference 2016

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Following the launch of their annual report at the House of Lords in September 2016, Deans and directors from UK business schools were brought back together this week to host the Chartered Association of Business Schools’ largest ever Annual Conference. Here, City-REDI’s Prof. Simon Collinson – Director of City-REDI and Chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools – provides an overview of the key discussions from the event, and reflects on the headline topic of the threat posed by Brexit on the UK’s research investment and the regional economic contribution that comes from international students.

The CABS annual survey shows that Business Schools and Universities are likely to lose research funds and students because of BREXIT. International students are also starting to look at other countries to go to University because of the anti-immigration stance taken by the UK Government. This threatens the funds that flow into regions via their Universities (for example student spending on accommodation, food, etc. which helps maintain jobs and businesses off-campus). But every point made about the loss of opportunities to connect internationally at the national level via our international faculties and students – which includes the ‘soft power’ we get from our overseas alumni – also applies at the regional level. Bilimoria focused on these issues in his keynote speech, drawing upon his lobbying efforts to get the Government to change its stance.

Other key themes that featured at the conference go to the heart of how business schools, and Universities more generally, contribute to regional economic growth;

(1) UK Universities hold much of the UK’s science and technology (S&T) assets, from Energy research centres to Medical laboratories. Business Schools provide a bridge between these assets, businesses and the economy. They connect S&T opportunities to market opportunities and could play a stronger role in the innovation pipeline through the commercialisation of these technological assets. This includes new products and services as well as new processes and business models, enabled by technological breakthroughs. One session at the conference involving representatives from the British Academy, Innovate UK and BEIS looked at the current and future potential for enhancing the role of business schools in aligning S&T investments with the regional economic growth plans, focusing on specific areas of local competitive advantage.
(2) Business Schools and Universities are a source of skills – and we are conscious of the need to align what we teach to the needs of business and the economy. Neil Carberry – the CBI’s Director of Employability & Skills – spoke of the need to ‘closer align programmes with rapidly changing labour market forces and encouraged business schools to “work with businesses not just teach about business”’ (excerpt taken from the CABS conference report online and can be found here).
(3) The CABS Small Business Charter was discussed with the support of Lord Young. This awards Business Schools for their regional contribution in developing, supporting and mentoring small firms and entrepreneurial start-ups. This discussion brought to the fore the role of Business Schools as a key resource for bringing entrepreneurship and creativity into the region – City-REDI aims to align this more effectively with the gaps and opportunities identified in their regional economic growth modelling.

Further commentary from the two days can be found using the twitter hashtag #CABS2016.

Live global coverage from the conference can also be found in the Financial Times (subscription required), Times Higher Education and the Independent.

Here you can also find the ‘delivering value report’, launched by CABS in September, and here you can find details of all the key highlights from the conference as summarised on the Chartered ABS website.

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