How partnerships can enhance organisational change.

Conferences, Partnerships and Change

Whilst the subject of the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA) 2013 conference, at Warwick University was partnerships; the issue of organisational change also ran through nearly all the sessions, in particular the idea that universities cannot stand still doing the same thing year after year.  Speaker after speaker illustrated how partnerships are one way in which they can effect change.

Three categories of partnership were discussed at the conference: partnerships

  1. with students, to transform the learning experience
  2. with employers, to develop the curriculum (enhancing the employment prospects of students)
  3. with other HE providers, to strengthen the reach of global HE
MBA students in real business

There is a significant gap between what MBA students learn and what global industries require.

Global Ed readers are most likely to be involved in partnerships with other HE providers, the sort of international partnership that can help business schools and other university functions become more internationally relevant.  However, nowadays links with employers are intertwined with the notion of internationalisation.  As an example, in their 2010 study Milhauser and Rahschulte detected a significant gap between what the students learnt on MBA programmes and what global industries require from their management staff.  They found that skills like cross-cultural cooperation and communication were more important than ever before.  They suggested that MBA students should look for programmes with the most diverse group of students and diversity of experience and knowledge among their teaching staff.  Perhaps we should extend this suggestion to all students not just experienced managers looking at MBA programmes.

International partnerships in higher education

International partnerships create various advantages throughout the whole academic field.

Conference presentations suggested that international partnerships can help university teaching staff gain international experience and conduct internationally relevant research.   By offering students opportunities for study abroad, partnerships can help to equip graduates with valuable new skills and a global outlook and through trans-national education, partnerships can extend the commercial reach of HE institutions.  In short, international partnership working can lead to better research, better teaching, secure revenue streams and perhaps most crucially, helps students prepare for careers in global business.

However, partnerships cannot be formed without changing the way universities operate, changing the power structures, giving partners a say in the way the institution operates and offering stakeholders more of a say in the decision making process.  The transition from control by a top team of senior academics to a broader shared responsibility with employers, with students and with international partners will be uncomfortable for institutions.   But universities face no alternative, they must change to survive, an idea introduced at the first presentation of the conference by Sir Michael Barber, chief education advisor to Pearson and co-author of a report on the future of HE, called An Avalanche is Coming.

International partnerships in higher education

Universities must engage more their stakeholders in the decision making process.


Sir Michael argues that there is a need for:

  1. Students to change their outlook, to seize the moment, not just to study for a degree, but to think about the opportunities which university presents and think about their future employability. 
  2. Universities to change their outlook, to be bold, to change their perspective, think about global partners, think about technological change and think about how they can transform teaching to make it more relevant to a changing world.
  3. Governments to change their perspective from regulating national HE sector as a domestic issue, to regulation that is fit for HE as a global business, with global on-line resources and increasingly mobile students and staff.

 He concluded that it is simply impossible to stand-still in the face of an avalanche.

The HEA conference

The conference offered an opportunity for stakeholders to simulate cooperation in partnership process.

Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the conference was the opportunity afforded to academic staff and student representatives to model the sometimes uncomfortable process of setting up a partnership and partnership working.  Prior to the conference, members of the HEA’s student advisory panel approached several academic staff to see if they were willing to act as conference partners for the duration of the two day event.  This created the opportunity for a dialogue to develop between pairs of student and academic delegates.  I was privileged and flattered to be asked by Catherine Robb, one of the student advisory panel and a Masters student at Essex University, to be her conference partner.  It is a scheme I would recommend to all conference organisers.  Apart from having a conference buddy (someone to talk to in coffee breaks between sessions) it also allowed me make new contacts and to see the conference proceedings from a different perspective.  It helped me to reflect on the conference sessions, articulate my views and engage in discussions about the key note sessions and their link with the conference themes.  Catherine’s comments about the motivations for the conference partnership scheme and reflections on her own experience of how it worked in practice are linked to this article.

 I would encourage international conference organisers in particular to consider this type of scheme, as it creates an opportunity for all scholars at the conference to develop some of the cross-cultural communication skills which employers tell us are in such demand these days.  It helps them to have some of the experiences our international students have when they arrive to study in a strange location with no peer support group around them and it pushes academics out of their comfort zone and toward new experiences.  Never a bad thing!

Michael Barber: An avalanche is coming


See also:

The Internationalisation of UK Universities – a progress report

Cover picThis week, Philip Warwick, Senior Teaching Fellow at Durham University Business School, UK, writes at guest blog on the state of internationalisation in British universities. Professor Warwick has been studying the international strategies of a number of universities in the UK and in other countries. He has found that approaches vary across countries. Within the UK he has identified four specific strategies to international development within the group of universities he studied.

Business school performance culture. Are we targeting the right things?

cover pic publish or perishThose of us working in higher education at the moment must recognise that some of the targets to which are business schools work are leading to dysfunctional outcomes, for example staff being taken away from front line teaching and student support duties so that they can write articles for obscure academic journals.

Does management work and does it have a future?

Cover pictureI recently completed some research on the management and organisation of British universities, which concluded that despite being full of good intentions (in this case to internationalise their offering) they lacked the management experience and know-how to implement the changes necessary to implement their strategies. Whilst it seemed fairly clear to me that what they needed to do was improve their management knowledge and know-how, it did not feel entirely comfortable for me to be saying this. After all I work at a Business School, one of whose primary functions is to provide management education to help managers develop their knowledge and know-how.

AACSB Associate Deans Conference: Leadership Skills and Strategies (David Logan: CultureSync & USC Marshall School of Business)

David Logan CultureSync and Senior Partner, USCAt the AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012 David Logan, Senior Partner, CultureSync and Lecturer, Marshall School of Business, University of Southern California, gave a highly entertaining talk about dealing with ‘tribes’ in organizations. The title of the talk was “Leadership Skills and Strategies: Techniques and Tools on Leveraging Group Dynamics” and it gave some useful advice on how we can teach groups to develop a more positive attitude to their work.

From Harvard to GEM: Co-teaching on Strategic Management and Leadership

2012-11-30 14.02.39It was a great pleasure during the last semester to share a class at Grenoble EM with Dr. Gregg Glover. Gregg has been a good friend for many years (though he might deny this!) and I am delighted he accepted our invitation.

He did his doctorate in organization change at Harvard University and has worked there for over 25 years. He was able to bring his vast teaching and professional experience to the class and share some of the things he has learned and studied while working for the world’s most known university. Read more…

AACSB Associate Deans Conference 2012: Lessons from Change in Business Schools

MainOne of the opening sessions of the AACSB Conference for Associate Deans Conference brought together panelists from 4 business schools; Latha Ramchand, Dean at the University of Houston, Lynne Richardson, Dean at the University of Mary Washington, Deborah Spake, Associate Dean at the University of Alabama and Kristie Oglivie, Interim Associate Dean at California State University. The Panel was chaired by Susan McTiernan, Associate Dean at Quinnipiac University and Vice Chair of the Associate Deans Affinity Group.

Higher education facts and figures 2012

Universities UK Blog: “Every year, Universities UK produces an annual collection of facts and figures on UK higher education institutions. This publication always proves very popular, as it presents a vast range of information in bite size chunks, providing readers with an overview of higher education in the UK, covering the student population, staff population and finances.”

Are home students being rejected in place of wealthy international students?

Universities UK Blog: “It is true that higher education is becoming increasingly global; there are growing numbers of overseas students who choose to study in the UK. This is hardly surprising given the UK’s leading reputation for higher education and the global rise in the numbers of tertiary students wanting to study outside of their home nation.”

Rising student expectations? University international offices know all about it.

UniversitiesUK: “Don’t you just hate it when university and student leaders say: ‘Now that students are paying high fees…’? Where have these people been for the last 30 years? It seems too easy to forget that international students studying in British universities have been paying fees since the 1980s.”

Cause for concern? The Bologna Process and the UK’s international student market

GlobalHigherEd: “A report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) questioning the implications of the Bologna Process on the UK’s international student market set of alarm bells in the UK media last week. For example, the Guardian (May 22) declared, “UK universities at risk of losing foreign students as a result of the Bologna process.”

How dependent on foreign (non-EU) student fees is the UK (2010-2011)?

GlobalHigherEd: Income from HE course fees by country of HE institution 2010/11 – table


cover cover Cover
The book provides clear arguments in favour of protecting the current financial models of research universities. The book is an “insider’s account” of why business schools have never gained the respectabilty they have searched for over the past century.
Learning is fundamentally based on the social context through the process of “legitimate peripheral participation.”
Cover hbr cover
Sets out some of the challenges and external pressures on business schools today and the impact that may have for the coming years. Great book. Advocates the creation of a learning organization as a way of achieving sustainable competitive advantage over your competitors.
A collection of the ten most read articles that have been published by HBR on strategy.

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Filed under Business Schools, Conference, Education, Exchange study programs, Great Britain, Higher Education, International studies, Internships, MBA

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