Backing business schools to support local economic growth

ABS Manifesto for Growth

We want an incoming government to include business schools in local growth policies and business support initiatives. Lord Young proposes how.


Article by: Rt Hon Lord Young of Graffham DL
                 Prime Minister's Advisor on Enterprise

The launch of the Small Business Charter a few months ago marked an evolution in the development of business schools in our country. It was recognition of the very real changes that have taken place in our economy with the result that nineteen out of twenty companies in the UK employ fewer than ten people. Today far more people work in small firms than work in our large companies, more people than ever before work for themselves and the skills required for both are very different from those required for large companies.

This is not to say that we should ignore the skills required by large companies. They are, after all, the main producers of wealth in our nation and it is vital to our economy that we have well-trained executives in our large companies but they are, no longer, the main employers in the land. This was the thinking behind the creation of the Small Business Charter with its accent on business schools working with local small firms and I am delighted that the first twenty schools have been awarded, and I hope, with many more to come. It is my ambition that, in the fullness of time, nearly all business schools will be members of the Charter and will be contributing considerably to the local economy. It has long been a complaint that the management of our small firms sector needs up-skilling and here is a real opportunity for business schools to play their part.

My hope is that the business school will become the focal point for all small firms in their immediate neighbourhood. Government has many programmes designed to assist small firms, Growth Vouchers and Growth Accelerators are two examples, which will bring together the knowledge and experience of the business school to the benefit of the local economy.

But the Small Business Charter is only part of the story. Whilst it is of advantage to have entrepreneurial business schools working with small firms in their area, there remains the rest of the university. There were a number of proposals in my latest report “Enterprise for All” which concerned universities. One, I had proposed the creation of a start-up program that would cover all students, undergraduate and postgraduate, in any university which has an enterprise society. This would give the opportunity of a start-up loan to any student who would like to start their own business whilst still at university. This would involve a co-operation between the business school and the Enterprise Society to the benefit of both.

Secondly we announced the creation of the Enterprise E-Star award, under the patronage of HRH the Duke of York. This is to be run by the National Business Awards (NBA) with the first gold award to be made at their November 2015 awards ceremony. All universities will be judged on their approach to enterprise across the campus. Do they have an elective enterprise module? Do they offer students, of all disciplines, start-up support? How effective is its relationship with its own business school? Does the university have incubator units? These are some of the questions that will be asked. Professor Sir Malcolm Grant has agreed to chair the judging panel.

Finally there is a new program known as Future Education and Employment Record (FEER). We hope to begin publishing, next year, earnings, suitably anonymised, for every course in every university in England. This will, of course, include courses available via business schools as well as the rest of the university and would give an opportunity for every school leaver to judge whether or not he or she should go to any particular university, take any particular course, or even go at all. At the present time we are asking many school leavers to make the biggest economic decision they will have to take until they buy their first home, without giving them any indication whether or not this would be to their benefit. It will, of course, show how many graduates go on to work for themselves, as well as how well they progress in later life, and I can see this being an important indicator for many.

I hope that all these programmes, taken together, will give us the entrepreneurial business schools that the economy needs to take
us into the testing decades ahead.