EFMD-Global Focus Business Mag

How Being Embedded in your Region Helps Growth

Thomas Bieger

Thomas Bieger is President at the University of St.Gallen, Switzerland.

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Thomas Bieger explains how the University of St.Gallen used the new Business School Impact Survey to consolidate and build on its local roots.

Imagine you are the chief executive of an airport whose customers are rather dispersed. Some of them live up to 100 miles away, which is true of a minimum of 40% of hub transfer passengers.Your main concern is your airport’s international positioning against the major hubs and their worldwide competition. Your main markets are international transfer passengers and international airlines. You therefore recruit top staff and specialists from an increasingly competitive international labour market.

However, access to local resources is key for the expansion of your airport, the local labour market, rail and road access, subsidies for those public services that your airport delivers and the development of neighbouring businesses. Simultaneously, the regional environment sees the negative impacts, such as direct externalities like noise; and many locals regard indirect externalities, such as the role of the airport as a representation of globalisation, as a threat.

Many companies with operations fixed to a specific location face similar challenges. They compete in international markets but have to combine their international reach – even their global reach – with their local and regional roots. They rely on local resources and regional and national laws regulate them.

BSIS SGallen logoThe same is true of business schools – not just traditional, campus schools but also multi-campus universities and virtual business schools offering pure e-learning
products. All of them need to nurture their local roots. For example, they need at least a legal local base to ensure accreditation. Further, they draw on the brand and image of their home base.

Compared to other institutions of higher education, business schools face a specific challenge regarding caring about this local “embeddedness” because:

  • their graduates work for global companies and not for the regional economy and society as do most medical doctors, lawyers and teachers that traditional comprehensive universities produce
  • to achieve their global ambition, they rely on the professors and leadership that the global faculty market provides
  • from the public’s point of view they are often those responsible for bad management practices and are even the source of economic crises. This is most predominant in respect of the best business schools in a country with a dominant market share. Many view these schools as embodying an ever-present risk that their alumni
  • will feature in tomorrow’s negative headlines about incompetent managers.

BSIS bannerAll of the above are reasons why the University of St Gallen in Switzerland has undertaken the Business School Impact Survey (BSIS) assessment process offered by EFMD Global Network and FNEGE (French National Foundation for Management Education).

The University of St Gallen’s vision is to establish and further its position in the worldwide university landscape. However, 20% of its overall financial budget originates from its region, the Canton of St Gallen, while only 10% of its students do.As one of 10 state universities in Switzerland, it is the only specialised university whose graduates …

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