UK business schools call to address research funding imbalance following successful REF results

After a strong performance by the UK’s business schools in the Research Excellence Framework, the Association of Business Schools has called on Government and funding councils to reverse the decline in funding for business and management research.

Business schools contribute £3.25billion to the UK economy. Their students represent 1 in 5 postgraduates, and 1 in 7 undergraduates, attending university. However, funding for business and management research has fallen by 4.7% compared to rises in other fields such as STEM subjects, where IT for example has seen a rise of 26.1%.

The Research Excellence Framework shows a number of leading examples of business and management research delivering significant impacts on the economy and society, and providing an excellent return on the funding investment.

The Association of Business Schools has been lobbying for an incoming government to recognise business and management education and research, and the impact it has across the economy, through its ‘Manifesto for Growth’. The Association argues that investment is focused too narrowly on STEM and that management research has great potential to add value to STEM research by increasing our universities’ capacity to turn world class inventions into successful businesses.

The Association of Business Schools will produce a publication of Impact Case Studies in February 2015 which will highlight examples across the economy where business and management research has produced positive impacts.

Professor Angus Laing, Chair of the Association of Business Schools, said: “The competitiveness of the British economy requires greater investment in business and management research capacity which translates invention into innovation, and transforms a ground-breaking discovery into a world-beating business. Today’s REF results demonstrate the strength, impact and value that business and management research achieves right across the economy and on the wider society. The UK’s business schools want to see a move from investment narrowly focused on STEM to being about investment in STEMM where Management is as core to the policy discourse as Science and Engineering. Rebalancing this discourse is critical to rebalancing the economy of the future. If the trend of declining funding continues, the forthcoming academic year may be the first in over a decade that UK government sources will contribute less than 50% of total research income for business and management studies.”

A number of business schools have provided comment on the impact of their research as evidenced by their REF results.

George Feiger, Executive Dean of Aston Business School, has linked research and its impact to the School’s purpose.  He said: “With our research overwhelmingly in four (world leading) and three (internationally excellent) star papers and their accompanying 100 per cent rating for research impact, Aston Business School is in a strong position following its REF performance. But to take this in isolation would be to miss the key meaning of research to the School. For us ‘research with impact’ means much more than the results of the REF, or the prominence of individual research papers. It means research that creates opportunity – opportunity for our students to launch businesses of their own that have a strong chance of success, and opportunity for all our faculty to work inside and alongside companies large or small to help them improve their planning, their processes, their marketing and ultimately their performance as well as to improve policy of national and regional governments. By creating opportunity, we are seeing real world impact across everything we do.”

Kevin Kerrigan, Executive Dean of Newcastle Business School, said: “In Newcastle Business School, we place great emphasis on applied business-relevant research that has a high propensity for impact and is used to underpin our consultancy, corporate learning partnerships and KTPs.  We are delighted that 60% of our impact has been recognised as World Leading and Internationally Excellent.  The REF case studies were built around funded research for the UK Government and knowledge transfer partnerships with internationally operating engineering companies. Using the KTPs as an example, we are proud to say that the critical research that informed and changed the business operations of the partner institutions developed new approaches that were transferred into subsequent work with other partners (corporate and public sector), operating both regionally and nationally.”

Professor Martin Kitchener, Dean of Cardiff Business School, said: "All of the staff at Cardiff Business School are absolutely delighted to have been ranked 6th in the UK. As a School we have also made a very important contribution to the successful performance of the University, now ranked 5th of UK universities.

“For me, two things are notable about our result. The first is that we have retained our position in the top 10, since 1992, through five separate assessment exercises. The second I am equally proud of: that our environment was rated at 100%, demonstrating that Cardiff is an excellent location for academic endeavour."