More than a product: Executive Education as a catalyst
Great Executive Education must be research-led and delivered through excellent teaching. It is our contention that Executive Education is much more than merely the end result of these two missions. Executive Education can act as a catalyst to the production of great research and can enhance undergraduate and postgraduate teaching through the development of fantastic, meaningful and productive relationships with organisations.
The model presented here has been developed to visually represent the contribution that executive education brings in supporting the three key functions of business schools: Research, Teaching and Engagement.
Excellent Relations with Organisations → Employability Agenda
Great relationships with organisations lead to more opportunities for student placements, real life business problem-based projects, guest lectures and scholarships. Enhancing student employability is of critical importance in an ever increasingly competitive environment. An increase in student employability can often help universities to attract stronger students.
Excellent Relations with Organisations → Research Impact
Exec. Ed. offers a number of different routes to impact. Perhaps the simplest form is as a vehicle within which to disseminate research, the impact of which can be robustly measured over time. The second is the novel ideas and new levels of understanding created by academics when they are engaged in challenging teaching with demanding, intelligent business audiences. New insights are inevitably discovered when theoretical models are applied to real world experiences. Also, new research opportunities are identified as a result of a better understanding of emergent issues and trends within the business community. The third way could also be through action research, where University and external organisation meaningfully engage in the production of new concepts and theory, together.
Excellent Relations with Organisations → Research Funding
Closer relationships with organisations, where each partner seeks to explore the opportunities that each other offers, uncovers numerous different research opportunities. Many research council funds require partnerships with organisations in order to award funds. Successful, engaged research provides business schools with a reputation for excellence and as a consequence, securing such funding opportunities could occur from a position of significant expertise. Industrially funded research can occur as a consequence of engaged executive education which uncovers significant areas of challenge or interest. If the organisation has had a great experience, and want to learn more, research may follow.
All of these pathways and relationships, if positive, provide business schools with virtuous circles of enhanced research, teaching and engagement quality.
Better funded research that addresses current business issues provides an excellent foundation for the creation of excellent research. Intelligent organisations can participate actively in the research, distilling their ideas into the academic literature.
Encouraging academics to work with organisations to test their ideas and providing them with real life examples, enhances teaching. Demanding audiences at the cutting edge of their field, demand the most innovative teaching practices, which can be incorporated into the wider teaching agenda.
The engaged delivery of a range of different education services with organisations to help them to survive and thrive offers a unique opportunity for business schools to deliver considerable economic AND social value to local, regional and international communities.
If we can achieve all of this, our challenge then is to evidence the impact of executive education in order to demonstrate that executive education is indeed of value to its constituents and beneficiaries. An Executive Educative Excellence Framework anyone?
Sarah Lethbridge is Director of Executive Education at Cardiff Business School – The Public Value Business School.
Interested in attending our next Executive Education Symposium in June? Express your interest here.