The evolution of business schools: Bucks Business School

Written by
Emily Sexton-Brown

22 Mar 2016

22 Mar 2016 • by Emily Sexton-Brown

1. Was there anything missing within the MBA you felt needed to be implemented when you started teaching?

Yes, with more than 20 years’ experience of delivering business education at UK and overseas Universities, one thing that struck me has been the emphasis in many courses on academic learning to the detriment of an understanding of how things work in organisations.  Many of the syllabi were lagging behind real business concerns with little emphasis, for example, on the challenges of operating in a global market place. I know this since I used to work for the Open University on weekend courses while I was a training and development manager in industry.  

So early on in my time at Buckinghamshire New University, I introduced an MBA module on ‘International Management and Change’ since both elements are vital to today’s fast-moving environment. I also make a point of creating assessments based around real-life cases since learning rooted in the real-world is a powerful motivator.

Colleagues of mine at Bucks are of the same mind. Dave Clarke, for example, module leader for the online MBA at Buckinghamshire New University says that ‘Many MBAs didn’t always include discussion about such context as the way work, work patterns and workplaces are changing. It is vital to reflect these in courses’. Richard Bingley, director of the Bucks Business School, is likewise of the same view:

‘“While more traditional business schools may focus on general concepts, Bucks Business School and our new 2016 MBA programme, offer the ability to specialise in specific sector-related study – such as Aviation and the Digital Economy”.   

"Many MBAs didnt always include discussion about such context as the way work, work patterns and workplaces are changing. It is vital to reflect these in courses"

2. Have you sensed an attitude shift throughout students and faculty members, if so, how do the attitudes compare now?

Students are now more discriminating, perhaps because many of them have developed the habits of ‘customers. Another shift relates to the centre of delivery with our MBA now available online and executive education delivered at prime locations in London and Buckinghamshire. As Richard Bingley, has said:  

“With programmes delivered at four campus sites close to London, and online or with international partners, Bucks Business School takes the innovative, flexible and current approach to learning that is essential for success in modern and future business operating environments."

3. How have desired skillsets changed throughout the years?

Managers of today and tomorrow will need a higher level of some attributes such as creative thinking, problem solving and empathy. The best leadership is no longer the ‘Command and Control’ that used to be so dominant but a more Inclusive style that draws on the talents of the workforce and encourages people to go the extra mile is being increasingly prioritised by leading organisations since research shows the link between Inclusive Leadership and High Performance working. The change necessary in organisations to bring this about is at the heart of my module on ‘International Management and Change’.

Richard Bingley, who is himself the former CEO of City Security and Resilience Networks (CSARN), says: “The Bucks MBA develops the skills, knowledge and capabilities to enable our graduates to become 'future ready' business thinkers who can bring accentuated value to clients and colleagues in any commercial and organisational setting.”

4. How much has the advance in technology changed how students are taught?

Enormously. Even the so-called face-to-face teaching makes extensive use of technology for the provision of learning materials, articles or artefacts. Self-managed learning – via online learning, blended learning or MOOCs – is increasingly prevalent and educational providers are having to respond to this in the way they provide their learning materials. 

Technology has freed up the place at which study takes place too.  As Dave Clarke, says: ‘Students may study with Bucks New University but increasingly not at Buckinghamshire New University’. This requires another different set of skills and attributes for both students (self-management, more of a researcher than a student, ability to cope with lacunae and uncertainty) and tutors (use of technology to provide knowledge and facilitate discussions and realisation that they are not the only, or even the main source of information for their students).
So successful is this method of learning that Buckinghamshire New University also offers e-learning in  Organisational Resilience, Positive Psychology, Mentoring, Telehealth and Telecare, Policing, Clinical Supervision and even kitchen design!

5. How will executive education evolve?

One important way is through the dissolving of the divide between academia and organisations, so that cutting-edge applied research findings can go straight into industry practice. The government now prioritises the proven application of research in industry and Bucks Business school, is well placed to deliver that with its strongly applied focus and programme of short courses and experience in consultancy. Only those organisations that are at the cutting edge of knowledge will be able to outperform the competition.