The latest government policies and what they mean for business schools

It may have been the summer recess in Westminster, but it certainly didn’t stop a plethora of activity.

One of the interesting things about meeting with politicians and civil servants is discovering what they think they know about business schools. We clearly have a lot of educating to do! One common misperception is that almost all the teaching that business schools engage in is via MBA courses. In fact, fewer than 5% of business school students are on an MBA. Another is that business schools are wealthy. This is partly based on knowledge of Harvard and Wharton, because all business schools are just like them, right? It is also partly based on their ‘knowledge’ of how much MBAs cost, and as that is the majority of what you do, it stands to reason you would all have lots of money. So, as well as trying to dispel theses myths and talk about the good work that is done in our business schools, we have been talking to policymakers about the value of business schools to Apprenticeships, the Industrial Strategy, Research Impact, and the perennial issue of international students.

Many of you will be aware that the Institute for Apprenticeships has proposed lowering the upper fee band for the Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship from the current £27,000 to £22,000. Worse still, the IfA suggests that if they were starting from scratch this would lower to £8,000. I am sure the DfE will be delighted that someone has judged that a degree can be delivered for less than £8,000 in total. As you might imagine this has not been well received by companies wanting to use their funds to train staff to this level, nor by the institutions already delivering or planning to deliver apprenticeships. They have worked hard on building relationships with employers and putting appropriate systems in place. In addition to the appeal put forward by the Trailblazer Group we have been engaging our contacts in different government departments to have this proposal scrapped.

On a more positive note, we have been having a number of constructive meetings with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on the industrial strategy and the productivity review. This has mostly been associated with the Small Business Charter and we are now having regular roundtable events with BEIS to discuss how business schools can help engage small businesses. To this end, we submitted a consortium bid for Business Basics Funding and hope that this may be the start of bigger funding opportunities to come.

You will all hopefully be aware that we have launched a joint initiative with BAM to highlight the opportunities available to engage more fully with business and management research. We are asking for: a ‘What Works Centre’ for management and leadership; inclusion in discussions about the industrial strategy and what we can offer; help in disseminating information more fully to companies and other areas of Government; that bids for STEM research funding that include commerciality from the outset be prioritised for funding; and that better use is made of the Small Business Charter network for helping to improve productivity in small businesses. We have had a fantastic response and have already held meetings with Innovate UK, BEIS and HM Treasury. Other meetings planned are with Department for HCLG, the Treasury Select Committee and the Scottish Education Minister.

As many of you will have seen, earlier this week the MAC produced their report on International Students. The recommendations are disappointing to say the least. They argue that students should remain in the 100,000 net immigration target, although they also argue that this target should be abolished. They also suggest that students who complete their undergraduate degree can apply for jobs out-of-country under the same rules as if they were still on a tier 4 visa. None of this is especially helpful. We have supported UUKi’s call for a post study work visa, which has also been praised by the Universities Minister Sam Gyimah (who you can hear speak at our Annual Conference in November). We have also contributed to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Students review of the non-financial impacts of international students. This issue will rumble on as we await the Immigration Bill.

With Party Conference season upon us we will continue to monitor the political scene. And of course we have the review of post-18 education and funding to look forward to.