Exploring professional services models in UK business schools
The Chartered ABS has published an in-depth study into the different operating models for professional services teams in UK business schools. The report is the product of a collaboration between the Chartered ABS and members of its Professional Managers’ Committee. Using a mixed methods approach, the research generated unique benchmarking data into the levels of resourcing across a range of professional services functions, and qualitative insights into the issues surrounding professional services structures and how to navigate strategic resourcing decisions given the unique characteristics of business schools.
Through a survey of Chartered ABS member schools, the research finds that professional services staff are engaged in a wide range of activities, including programme administration, educational technology, and business development, to name but a few of the functions covered in the report. However, the level of staff FTE varies and for many of the functions a significant proportion of respondents believed their school was under-resourced. For each function, the report provides data on the location of professional services staff, whether they are located within the business school itself or the central university, and the approaches used to cost charging and line management responsibility. Respondents also gave their views on areas of investment for professional services in their school in the coming years, revealing a focus on building capacity to enhance the student experience and investment in digital learning technology.
The qualitative research involved focus groups and interviews with those responsible for managing the professional services team in their business school. The key themes highlighted from the discussions included the challenges business schools face in managing key functions amidst growth in student numbers, the need for investment in digital technology and associated training for staff, and how to negotiate and collaborate with the central university on resourcing issues. The consensus is that quality and closeness of working relationships is most important, and that business partners in functions such as HR and Finance can be highly effective if they are located within the business school and work exclusively for it.
The report highlights accreditations as being a likely influence on the extent of professional service resourcing, finding that for 19 out of the 22 functions covered in the survey, the business schools with an accreditation were generally better resourced than those with no accreditations. Further analysis was undertaken of the data to determine any correlations between the extent of the decentralisation of the participating schools’ professional services functions and other characteristics such as size of student and staff populations, university incorporation status, and number of accreditations held by the business school.
The benchmarking data included in the report and the recommendations offered will be useful for those considering changes to the professional services setup in their business school and for making a case for investment in more resources. It also offers guidance on how to facilitate a better understanding of their school amongst colleagues in the wider university.