ABS National Advisory Board Network: Helping business schools stay relevant

The Association of Business Schools launched this May the National Advisory Board Network (NABN), a forum that brings together a cross section of business school Advisory Board Chairs (or senior members of Advisory Boards with specific expertise), business school deans, and other representatives from businesses and professional bodies.  This body has been set up in response to the findings of the Association of Business Schools’ Innovation Task Force report and aims to promote greater engagement between businesses and business schools for the long-term development of business and management research and education.

At the launch of the Network at Santander’s London head quarters, over fifty Advisory Board Chairs, members, and business school deans gathered for a stimulating discussion on what business schools and businesses could do to better engage and support one another. Professor Baback Yazdani, Dean of Nottingham Business School and Chair of NABN, chaired the meeting and welcomed attendees with an introduction on the Network's mission and goals. Steve Pateman (pictured), Santander’s Head of UK Banking, delivered the keynote speech, highlighting the critical role business schools can play in equipping business leaders with the ability to succeed.

Survey results: engagement a critical issue for business schools

A survey of attendees found that external members of Advisory Boards expect deans to 'encourage open discussion on the school's progress and challenges' and show 'strong leadership' in initiating strategy and dealing with operational issues. Deans on the other hand expect external members to provide input on the school's strategic plan and support in delivering this. This highlights the critical role of the relationship between internal and external Advisory Board members. Most business school Advisory Boards, although not all, have a good mix of both; collaboration is key to ensure that these bodies provide thought leadership that leads into specific action rather than operate as simple forums for discussion.

As a few respondents put it, the ideal role for Advisory Boards would be to operate as ‘critical friends’ rather than unquestioning supporters, occasionally challenging business school strategies and priorities so that business schools are able to adapt teaching and research to meet the needs of the market.

This general attitude was also reflected into attendants' priorities for their own institutions. Asked to provide a three point plan for the next three years for their business school, respondents chose engagement with business and industry, particularly with local employers, as a key priority. One respondent mentioned reduction of dependence on public sector funding as a specific goal for their school. Other priorities included improving quantity and quality of research with an emphasis on impact, internationalisation and TNE, and boosting student employability through work placements.

Next steps for the Network

As for suggestions for future activities of the Network, respondents provided a wide range of options. The most popular one was analysis of best practice in terms of Advisory Board size, membership, scope, tenure, structure, and effectiveness. Respondents also suggested that the Network could enhance business schools’ understanding of the various needs of SMEs, support engagement with venture capital firms and angel investors to provide seed funding for students, facilitate collaboration with professional bodies to create funded placements for business students, explore the dynamics of internationalisation, operate as a lobbying body on issues such as visa rules for international students, and hold regional or sector-focused events.


Contact us

For more information on the launch event of the National Advisory Board Network please see here.

If you are a business school dean or an Advisory Board Chair (or an Advisory Board member with significant experience) and you are interested in joining the Network please contact Alex Katsomitros at AKatsomitros@the-abs.org.uk