Business schools showing their resilience in challenging conditions

The 2019 Chartered ABS Annual Membership Survey finds that UK business schools are performing strongly and are focused on growth despite the continued uncertainty from Brexit and a hostile immigration environment.

Of the business schools responding to the survey, 72% reported an increase in total income from the previous year and, based on the data submitted, the UK business school sector is estimated to have generated £4bn in income in 2018/19.

The survey, which was published at the Chartered ABS 2019 Annual Conference, finds that many schools are targeting growth in first year undergraduate enrolments for the current academic year, particularly for non-EU international students where 79% are targeting an increase. For UK students and EU students, 63% and 44% of schools, respectively, stated that they were targeting an increase in undergraduate enrolments. Business schools also show a high level of engagement with the degree apprenticeships initiative, with 65% of the responding schools currently offering these qualifications and half reporting plans to grow their degree apprenticeships portfolio.

The external environment continues to pose a variety of challenges for business schools, the most difficult of which is believed to be attracting research funding, with 67% of respondents to the survey citing this as significant or critical, up from 56% last year. The continued narrow focus on STEM research means that there is limited funding available for business schools to work alongside the sciences to help address the grand challenges through research focused on improving management capacity and productivity. The REF 2021 exercise is seen as a critical or significant challenge by 46% of respondents, although this is down by 5% from the 2018 survey.

Several challenges related to the wider political context of Brexit and immigration again feature prominently in the concerns of UK business school staff, with 44% seeing the recruitment and retention of staff as being significant or critical, and 36% expressing the same view in relation to student recruitment. Furthermore, 35% of respondents believe immigration and post-study work visas to be a significant or critical challenge.

The results show that business schools remain focused on delivering a high quality experience for students, with 63% citing improving student satisfaction as significant or critical, and 42% expressing the same opinion in relation to improving student employment outcomes. Of the business schools completing the survey, 75% now have in place a promotional path to become a professor via the learning & teaching route, which is further evidence that the sector is placing a high priority on raising teaching excellence.

Lastly, the survey results show that the business school sector has made some progress in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion but much more needs to be done. Of the schools responding to the survey, 80% reported an increase in the last three to five years in the proportion of women within the Senior Management Team and 61% also said that they had increased the proportion of women professors in their institution. The representation of BAME staff has improved but the progress is less significant, with 40% of business schools reporting an increase in BAME representation at the level of Senior Management and 41% reporting an increase within Professor roles.

Read and download our report on the full results

The survey's findings were reported on in the Financial Times, which you can read here.