What makes an award winning business school?

The Times Higher Education Business School of the Year award recognises outstanding overall performance in business schools both within universities and the private sector. In order to receive the award, universities must demonstrate exceptional standards in specific indicators, such as, teaching, innovation, research, student experience, alumni relations and development in addition to building partnerships with the business community. Read on to see who the last 4 winners were and why.

Entries for the Times Higher Education Business School of the Year Award are now open. Enter now. Deadline: Wednesday 29th June.

2016 Business School of the Year
Strathclyde Business School, University of Strathclyde

An innovative programme that boosted the external business engagement of Strathclyde Business School was a substantial reason for its being named as winner of this award. Under the Growth Advantage Programme (GAP) – launched in June 2015 in conjunction with Santander bank and the first of its kind in Scotland – leaders of businesses turning over at least £500,000 attend four workshops tackling areas critical to business growth, such as resource, market, operations and leadership advantage. GAP helps business owners to improve growth as well as providing them with relationship-building opportunities.

Along with this and Strathclyde Business School’s growing number of company-specific MBAs – including the Weir MBA, Babcock MBA and Iberdrola MBA – the judges were “particularly impressed” with the school’s level of external engagement, a central feature of Strathclyde’s agenda.

Strathclyde also garnered praise for its academic success. It was rated first in Scotland and in the top 10 business schools in the UK for its research in the 2014 research excellence framework. The results showed that, in particular, its research was strong in terms of impact. Additionally, the REF rated the research environment, for both academic and doctoral student communities, as joint first in the UK. A report that reinforced the business case for employers to adopt the living wage had particular impact.

“Strathclyde Business School has been innovative since its inception 50 years ago, responding to business and technological developments,” the judges said. “We were particularly impressed with its level of external engagement… and the research project of the case for the living wage also impressed.”


2015 Business School of the Year
Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University

A fundamental review of the purpose of a modern business education, which propelled Northumbria University’s Newcastle Business School into an elite group made up of less than 1 per cent of the world’s institutions, is a significant reason why it has triumphed in this category. In May 2014, the school became one of only 10 global institutions outside the US, and the only one in Europe, to be accredited in both business and accounting by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

This was the culmination of an eight-year strategy that involved a major redesign of the school. It included creating undergraduate and postgraduate programme goals, establishing research-rich and industry-relevant course content, working with employers to create a strong curriculum focus on ethics and employability, and an emphasis on personal development and reflective professional practice. As a result, the school saw a 41 per cent increase in internship opportunities and now has the largest suite of programmes in the UK accredited by the Epas scheme, run by international management education body the EFMD. It is also the first business school in the North East to be awarded the Small Business Charter by the Chartered Association of Business Schools.

The judges said the review of the purpose of the business school and the resulting overhaul were “impressive”. The fact that it involved “fairly fundamental changes across all aspects of the school made it even more notable”, they said. Crucially, it “was able to quantify the impact of the changes” in terms of “staff development, student mobility and employability, and accreditations”.


2014 Business School of the Year
Salford Business School, University of Salford

Impressive collaboration with small and medium-sized enterprises has secured the Business School of the Year accolade for the University of Salford. Judges praised the way Salford Business School had prioritised its “real-world” impact in the business community, with 79 per cent of staff regularly engaging with small and medium-sized firms during 2012-13. These interactions were facilitated by an “engagement hub” that helped staff and students to work with companies on projects, internships and placements. As a result, Salford’s interactions with SMEs increased by 45 per cent year on year to 3,874.

Small charities and social enterprises also benefited, with 267 third sector bodies working with the business school in 2012‑13. Salford has set up the Centre for Social Business to promote research in this area.

Some 41 per cent of the business school’s course leavers in 2013 went to work with SMEs, up 12 per cent on the previous year. This helped to improve the university’s graduate employment record.

Entrepreneurship is another crucial area, with Salford assessing enterprise activity as part of its postgraduate programmes. The school now has 58 student micro start-ups working from its studios. Paul Marshall, a member of the judging panel and group business development director at UPP, described Salford as a “very worthy winner”.

“In a year of notable successes for the school, the judges were particularly impressed by the ways in which it successfully maximised the real-world impact achieved by staff and students, particularly in relation to the difficult-to-reach small business community,” he said.


2013 Business School of the Year
Brunel Business School

Brunel Business School described 2011-12 as a “watershed” year during which many of its plans and initiatives came to fruition, and the judges agreed that its winning submission showed “ambition, commitment and impact”.

During the year it moved into a new £28 million purpose-built building, and it shot up the rankings in the National Student Survey. Despite a chilly funding climate, it managed to maintain its spending on research and now believes that its long-term strategy of becoming a more mixed teaching and research business school has been successful.

During 2011-12, the school also adopted a new recruitment strategy, increasing its entry tariff from BBB at A level to AAB+ in a bid to improve quality. It boosted its offer conversion rate by inviting applicants to take part in a residential “business boot camp” offering lessons in voice skills and presentation and also engaging them in business-themed games. The model is now being introduced elsewhere in the university.

Graduate prospects improved significantly as well. Following an increased emphasis on employability in the curriculum, the percentage of leavers winning graduate-level jobs has grown more than 12 percentage points to 62.8 per cent, and the proportion unemployed has halved. “The school has been able to demonstrate, without being boastful, genuinely impressive progress towards achieving a set of transformational strategic targets within the year in question,” the judges said. It has taken significant steps towards its ambition of being a “genuinely international quality business school”, they concluded.


2012 Business School of the Year
Lancaster University Management School

Lancaster University Management School was commended by the judges for its “demonstrable, consistent and considerable impact locally, regionally, nationally and internationally”. In the first year of this award category, the judges were impressed by the quality and range of schools on the shortlist, but they particularly welcomed Lancaster’s innovation and commitment to social impact.

The school has grown impressively in the past five years: income is up 51 per cent, full-time undergraduate numbers have risen 46 per cent and full-time postgraduate numbers are up 31 per cent.
The judges applauded Lancaster’s operation of The Work Foundation and its launch last year of the Big Innovation Centre, which aims to build a “world-class innovation ecosystem” in the UK. The centre, which unites firms and policymakers, earned an income of £1.3 million this year from partners, companies and research contracts.

Meanwhile, the school’s Leading Enterprise and Development (LEAD) programme, which trains owners of small and medium-sized enterprises, has been rolled out nationally. It focuses on businesses and also on the personal development of the owner or manager. Evaluation indicates that owners who have taken the programme record -significant rises in profit, employment and productivity.

The school recently expanded an international master’s programme in practising management into Brazil. And its partnership with Lufthansa was “highly commended” by the European Foundation for Management Development at its Excellence in Practice awards in 2011.