Perspectives On: Intellectual Challenge in Business Schools

Author: Dr. Berry O’Donovan, Principal Lecturer Student Experience, and Birgit den Outer, Lecturer, Oxford Brookes University Business School

Recent discussions in the UK on the nature of teaching excellence in higher education have highlighted the importance of intellectual challenge and maintaining academic standards in the curriculum. This paper examines the different ways “intellectual challenge” is perceived by different groups within the business school, and uses this as an opportunity to reflect on the value of business and management education and how this can be practically reflected in school’s pedagogy and curriculum development.

The research, which includes interviews with business school staff and students, finds that there is an appetite for legitimate intellectual challenge among undergraduate students but that often this is eclipsed by the pressure on students and staff to attain and award high marks, potentially as a result of an increasingly transactional HE environment. The challenge is presented to educators to find ways of maintaining the legitimacy of intellectual challenge in the eyes of students throughout their programme, with some suggestions offered.

It is hoped that this paper will encourage educators to reflect on bridging the gap between the idealised expectations of their programmes and how pressures of the contemporary HE learning environment may affect this in practice.

Read the full paper here