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Why There Should Be Closer Ties Between Business And Business Schools

When it comes to business school, MBA jobs are now perhaps the most important consideration. The theory is world-class, but there should be closer connections with the workplace for today's MBAs.

Sat Feb 15 2014

When it comes to business schools and MBAs, jobs, jobs and jobs are seemingly the most important part of the whole process. After spending thousands on top programs, future business leaders and entrepreneurs will want to bank a return on their investment.

And closer working relationships between education and large corporate businesses – and a stronger culture of entrepreneurship in education – will be key to help accelerate economic growth, a leading banker at Santander will say today.

Steve Pateman, Head of UK banking, will also say that only greater collaboration between education and big businesses will allow entrepreneurs to flourish.

Speaking at the National Association of College and University Entrepreneurs (NACUE) student enterprise conference at Sheffield Hallam University, the head of Santander’s UK operations will also tell delegates that small businesses often struggle to find top talent. This signals that job prospects for MBAs keen to enter start-ups remain prosperous.

But there needs to be wider-reaching and significant cultural change to ensure firms have access to the brightest graduates, and likewise make sure graduates have access to small business employers, he will say.

His concerns reflect criticism that MBA programs can be long on theory and sometimes short on practical experience. An initiative was recently launched to address these concerns and close the gap between business schools and frontline managers.

A new service from the Institute of Equality and Diversity Practitioners aims to bring together the best academic thinking from leading schools – including Stanford, MIT and Oxford Said – to find practical applications for MBAs to use the knowledge they have acquired. In other words: work experience.

The Association of Business Schools (ABS) also published a report that highlighted areas of b-school education that need improvement. Chief among the recommendations was to design more practice into courses.

Over the past six years, as the MBA jobs market in Europe has experienced changes, practical experience is even more important for MBAs, says Mark Davies, Employer Relations Manager at Imperial College Business School.

“Businesses have been less willing to take a chance on MBA recruits with potential, looking instead for those who have the practical skills and experience they are sure can deliver value from day one,” he told BusinessBecause.

Lu Han, an FTMBA student from Cass Business School, agrees. “Teaching theory alone is never enough... you can't learn to cycle with the manual. You need to get out there, fall a few times and reflect on what works. Theory might help you understand the bike, but it will not help you ride it,” she says.

Imperial, for example, hold the Imperial Innovation Challenge, an intensive week that brings together theory and practice for MBA students. The school also works closely with leading companies including Microsoft, Cisco and Shell – as well as high-tech start-ups in London.

Students should look out for this “added value” on MBA programs, says Dr Sionade Robinson, Associate Dean of MBA Programmes at Cass, part of City University London. “The application of classroom knowledge in group assignments and projects for companies helps embed learning in skills and capabilities,” she says.

It is not just the traditional functions of a business such as finance, operations management and marketing that MBAs need to apply to real projects, says Anthea Milnes, Head of Marketing, Graduate Programmes at Cranfield School of Management. “Employers need MBA students who can ‘hit the ground running’ – who know how to apply their knowledge and understanding,” she says.

“However, employers often value soft skills such as management, leadership and team working as highly as functional understanding, quantitative ability or analytical skills.”  

Cranfield was one of the first UK business schools to respond to the demand for more practical business skills and has five leadership modules built into the MBA program. Students also participate in a year-long leadership development programme to equip them for careers post-graduation.

Schools in the US, too, are more conscious of the need for closer ties with businesses. Tuck Business School, for example, has stepped up its on-campus recruiting opportunities. Around 900 companies now recruit Tuck students directly, and the school sourced approximately 2000 unique job opportunities last year.

It is an opportunity for businesses to benefit as well as MBAs, says Professor Richard Thorpe from the University of Leeds Business School. “Businesses have a major opportunity to benefit from closer engagement with an easier-to-access and refocused business and management academic community,” he says in the ABS report.

Closer recruiting ties will also benefit the schools themselves, says Richard Rawlinson, Vice-President of Booz & Company. “Schools that engage with business and innovate in pedagogy will better compete for students,” he said.

It is not just the corporate ties that can benefit MBAs, however. Entrepreneurship is increasingly popular and a record amount of graduates shunned traditional job functions for it last year in the US. According to a report by QS Top MBA, 26.8 per cent of MBA candidates worldwide want to start their own companies.

Entrepreneurial MBAs at Cranfield benefit from start-up support, says Anthea. “We give them support to set up and grow their own organisations through activities such as business plan and venture capital competitions, modules on new venture creation and entrepreneurial finance, and our annual VentureDay event,” she said.

Most business schools, Imperial and Cass included, now have incubators that connect students with start-ups and investors. Cass, for example, has The Hangout, a working space for start-ups in the City of London which is free for all the university’s students and alumni who have graduated within two years. And in some cases, schools offer their MBAs funding.

Access to cutting-edge start-ups and established companies helps foster relationships with the business school, says Dr Sionade. “It's clearly central to our approach and being located in the City of London puts us at the hub of the most important city for global business in Europe. Our location has helped us create a network of corporate relationships that we provide Cass MBA students with,” she said.

While it is important to develop these connections with businesses, practical experience itself does not guarantee you a job after graduation.

Those with more practical experience are not necessarily better equipped than more theoretical MBA students, says Dr Anjali Bakhru, Director of the Full-Time MBA at Imperial.

“We recognise that more practical experience in itself is not intrinsically more beneficial. After all, we know that the best managers are not necessarily the ones with the most experience of managing,” she told BusinessBecause.

What is equally important, she says, is developing creative and problem-solving skills in ways relevant to businesses both now and in the future. 

Student Reviews

Bayes Business School




On Campus

Best Journalism school in Europe

When I first stepped onto the campus of City, University of London, I knew I was in for a ride - and not just on the Tube! With its vibrant energy and an impressive repertoire of programs, City U became my home away from home. The Journalism program was kind of a big deal. Rumour was that we were the best in Europe! The lecturers were not just experts in their field; they’re practically journalistic royalty. They were invested, passionate, and had a knack for turning the most flat press release into a riveting news story. With their guidance, I’ve learned to navigate the chaotic world of media like a pro. The campus was a melting pot of every culture, being that we had such a diverse international crowd. Being in the heart of London, I had the world at my fingertips - there was always a new corner to explore, a hidden gem of a cafe to discover, or a street performer! City, University of London wasn't just a university; it was a chapter in my life story that I’ll never forget.




On Campus

Learning environment

The teacher-learner ration is manageable, giving each learner a chance to gain personal attention. It is also easier following up on the progress of a student, as the numbers per class is not large. the conducive environment for learning includes clean classes, standard desks, world class instructional facilities and the opportunity to engage lecturers even after their sessions. The team spirit at City is above board, with learners getting chance to learn both from instructors and colleagues. This is the university of choice; the place to be.




On Campus


I liked that each class had a manageable number of learners, making the professor-learner ratio favor knowledge acquisition. I also liked that study schedules were manageable, and not overwhelming. The focus on talents and gifts even within the learning environment makes it possible for learners to achieve the best of their potential, and this has worked to the advantage of those that have schooled at City, University of London




On Campus


The diversity at City University facilitates interactions and is a direction toward the unity of the world. The classes are well built to match the number and needs of all students regardless of the elements of diversity that set people apart. The use of technology in delivery makes learning even more interesting and achievable. At City University there is no distinction pegged on the issues that make people unique.




On Campus


The team of lecturers at the Uiversity are well experienced. Their level of insight and the methodologies of delivery works for the interes of the leaeners. My learning experience was largely boosted by the level of knowledge of the professors at the institution, and their passion to transfer the same to learners. I appreciate every class I attended because of the level of insight I was able to gather




On Campus

The best university I’ve been to

The campus and the people I've met have made it a wonderful experience. I was reared in a small town with a graduating class of only 88 individuals, so moving to City University was a huge adjustment for me. My dorm has more residents than my whole high school combined! I enjoy the atmosphere here, and everyone is so friendly. Outstanding academic options and a stunning campus. Really great from beginning to end. The educators genuinely love what they do, and the students are ready to learn. On or around college, there is always something to do with friends, and the social scene is particularly warm.




On Campus

Bayes Business School

As a student at City university attending Bayes Business School I would totally recommend choosing this university as the experience is exceptional with great social networking opportunities . Professors are significantly helpful, delivering with excellence and professionalism. Everyone is happy to help and make you feel welcomed in such an esteem university as City, offering exceptional development and guidance through out the course.




On Campus

Economics and Politics

Incredibly amazing university, the way they polish students and help them boost their morale and think intellectually is worthwhile. Many universities have international partnerships to allow exchanges between their students. The most obvious subjects for these opportunities would be those that involve languages, and the study of people and places.




On Campus

Clinical biology

I really like it it’s perfect for me with not too many people and not too few either. All the modules are amazing. I love the toy bar. I love all the societies that I’ma part of. Especially the colour Bollywood society