Chartered ABS Annual Conference Round-Up


The Chartered Association of Business Schools hosted its annual conference over 9-10 November in Manchester, our biggest conference ever. Deans and directors from across the sector discussed an array of issues such as delivering value, student satisfaction, Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) research funding, dean retention and addressing the productivity crisis.

Opening the conference, Professor Angus Laing, outgoing Chair of the Chartered Association of Business Schools and Dean of Lancaster Management School (pictured) noted current challenges and policy changes in the sector, “There is no question that visas are an ongoing issue, a source of worry for business school deans and a long term concern on how we deliver high quality business education and maintain the UKs ‘soft power’. In the REF and TEF, we have to consider the evolution of assessment criteria in the upcoming years and how we perform on impact in comparison to other fields.”


During the first day, participants heard from keynote speakers who looked at global trends, market forces and analysed proposed legislation changes.


Leading economist John Kay (pictured) provided an overview of the development of the 20th century finance industry and hinted at the role business schools can play in the 21st century, “A successful organisation is a social one which is imbedded in the community in which it operates. To build a large organisation, you need to mould a sense of common purpose, this cannot be shareholder value. Business schools have a responsibility to teach its pupils that being a chief executive is not a prize but a responsibility.”

Ian Wright MP Chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee spoke of the need for change in the visa system “It is absolute madness to have a system where we educate people to highest level to then have them leave. This will affect our level of competitiveness. There needs to be more coordination between select committees to get through to the Home Office to ensure things will change.”

The conference provided the first major opportunity for the sector to discuss the Government’s Green Paper and in particular the Teaching Excellence Framework. In a lively panel discussion on TEF which featured Nick Hillman (HEPI), Chris Millward (HEFCE), Sir Anthony Seldon, and Professor Jerry Forrester, Professor Georgina Andrews, Head of Business and Management, School of Society, Enterprise and Environment, Bath Spa University provided an analysis of the implications of the higher education Green Paper, “Much of the paper is to be welcomed such as efforts to rebalance the value of teaching which has been overshadowed by research. Nonetheless there is some concern over the attempt to link TEF to charge higher fees. This may reinforce the notion that price is a reflection of higher quality. Another concern relates to the danger of TEF becoming a bureaucratic exercise. The current cost of REF is escalating in every round. Thirdly, linking TEF to QAA review outcomes could lead to HEIs becoming risk averse, and raise the stakes of quality assessment review even further.”

During the second day of the conference, Simon Walker the Director General of the Institute of Directors spoke on good business behaviours and the role of business schools “How do we build better boards? Good governance. As graduates are the board members of the future it is important that we enshrine the importance of good governance to students. Companies should respond in ways that are thoughtful and narrow the gap between individual values and collective action. It is vital managers obtain a progressive education that train them to deal with such day to day challenges. Academics in business schools play a vital role in this.”


Professor Simon Collinson, Dean of Birmingham Business School outlined how business schools could address the productivity crisis and deliver added value, “There are three major ways in which business schools contribute high value to the productivity agenda: Through their work with SMEs and entrepreneurship activities; by contributing to regional economic growth, for example through contribution to public sector reform; and third by focusing their teaching, research and consultancy practices on productivity and innovation both at the micro and macro levels."

Throughout the course of the two days, we polled the audience on a range of issues concerning the sector. The results can be found here.

Professor Fiona Devine, Head of Alliance Manchester Business School (pictured) reflected on the success of the conference in stimulating great ideas from start to finish.

Thank you for to all those who took part and attended the Chartered ABS Annual Conference. Next year’s conference will be in London with the provisional dates for the second week of November 2016.

Register your interest here