‘Reinvention’ with international intent and a new learning model
At the start of this academic year, Teesside University Business School rebranded as Teesside University International Business School. There was no big announcement and no fanfare, but whilst this understated change to our name may have gone unnoticed by many, the ‘international’ positioning, including the benefits of coming together for students from the region and internationally, is a hugely significant step.
Teesside University more widely is respected and admired for its position driving economic regeneration and social mobility in the region as part of its civic university mission, and was named The University of the Year for Social Inclusion in last year’s Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide. As a school our new, and related, vision is to be “an industry-facing business school producing the brightest talent and ideas to drive innovation, delivering economic and social impact on a local to global scale”.
Essentially, we want to build on the university’s distinctive positioning in the sector and take this internationally as a school. We already operate partnerships with five educational institutions in five nations – three in Singapore – spanning teaching and learning, research and enterprise, and we want to do more. Our aim is to accelerate the world’s transition to a sustainable, responsible and globally connected community by producing leaders and equipping organisations with the knowledge, skills, innovation and values to achieve positive commercial, environmental, economic and social impact.
Intent is one thing, but re-invention is about fundamentally challenging traditions and asking ‘why do we do what we do?’, and within that not being afraid to disrupt our own models. So, we have made a commitment that all learners at Teesside University International Business School will not receive a traditional approach to business education, and instead be empowered by our New Learning Model principles with a focus on experiential learning, virtual learning experiences and internationalisation.
But what does this actually mean in practice?
- Broad models of learning will be adopted to enable learning by doing, resulting in an enriched experience that forges increased confidence and problem-solving ability.
- Blocks of learning will enable learners to immerse themselves in each learning experience, and within that virtual learning experiences will be commonplace and the use of digital tools/platforms extended.
- Learners will shape their own learning through co-creation opportunities and flexible structure – this will include ‘learning through’ experience with assessed projects being designed collaboratively with industry as the primary vehicle for learning.
- Modules will instead operate more as ‘shells’ to enable innovation and adaptation without the need for constant modification, and assessments will be designed to
enable risk, exploration and uncertainty.
- Overall, the learner journey will be flexible and enable personalisation but underpinned by a clear structure – and mentoring will be embedded in the learning experience.
Returning to internationalisation, learning will be internationalised. All learners will have an international experience, either physical travel or through digital technologies, and projects will be linked to assessment. The experience of home students will be enhanced through collaboration with learners from other nations and cultures enabling a student experience of remote working across institutions, culture and time zones.
A good example of this is the International Business Challenge created during the pandemic, alongside partners from Prague City University and SRM University in India. The aim was for students to use their entrepreneurial skills to address the needs of under-resourced communities in rural India. It involved students from all three institutions contributing to a design phase where they produced guidance documents and a structure for the competition. Then in the competition phase students from Teesside and SRM worked in teams to develop business proposals, with Prague students being invited to assist teams with research, offering feedback and facilitating communication with participating institutions. This project has now been developed to run across our provision.
Another is our work with volunteering organisation Think Pacific to provide extraordinary virtual internship opportunities that tackle international development issues and achieve real outcomes for communities. Students work remotely with government ministries, businesses or charities to implement the Fiji National Development Plan and UN Sustainable Development Goals while developing their skills, their experience and boosting their employability.
We have made a great start, but to achieve our ambition we need to bring new people in to complement the talent we already have. So, at a time when there have been significant funding cuts and job losses in the sector, Teesside University International Business School has recently recruited 42 new posts to enhance our current 51 academic staff to meet the growth of the School and expand our expertise. Specialists in Fintech, Industry 4.0, sustainability and circular economy, economics, including energy economics and renewables, responsible leadership and workplace futures, are joining our team.
Both current, and incoming, colleagues will be empowered to deliver our New Learning Model through clear leadership and contemporary skills.
Warren Harrison is Dean of Teesside University International Business School