The Impact of the Impact Agenda

Ken Starkey

Professor of Management and Organisation Learning, Head of the Management Division, Nottingham University Business School, UK, and a member of EFMD’s R&D Steering Group.

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    Julie Davies

    Dr Julie Davies is HR Subject Group Leader at Huddersfield Business School in the UK and co-facilitates the AAPBS Deans’ Programme. j.a.davies@hud.ac.uk

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    Christophe Lejeune

    Dr. Christophe Lejeune is a Research Advisor in the Research and Surveys Unit of EFMD and focuses on analysing quality and change in business schools.

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    Business schools are facing increasing pressures to demonstrate their ‘impact’ on their surroundings and operations. Christophe Lejeune, Julie Davies and Ken Starkey analyse new research into how the impact agenda is affecting schools.

    Among the many implications for business schools of the 2008 financial crisis was the emergence of the “impact agenda.”

    At its core have been policy makers seeking greater evidence of learning institutions’ contributions to the public good and different measures of their accountability to multiple stakeholders.

    The business school community is well positioned to provide evidence of its impact.

    In early 2014, for example, EFMD together with FNEGE (the French National Foundation for Management Education) launched the Business School Impact Survey (BSIS) as a methodology to help business schools assess and measure their impact on the world around them. The Australian Business Deans Council and AACSB International have made similar responses.

    In the UK, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a peer review assessment of the quality of research taking place at higher education institutions, which is used to distribute government funding. REF incorporates an impact dimension to assess excellent research in universities and business schools.

    Although many current debates and discussions are about the assessment and measurement of impact, an interesting question concerns the organisational consequences of “impact thinking.” In other words, what is the effect of the impact agenda on business schools?

    Our research uses the UK as a specific case study to explore the impact of impact. To investigate this topic, we sent a short survey to deans, directors of research and research managers of UK business schools, and collected answers between 14 November 2014 and 12 December 2014.

    We purposely chose UK business schools as a starting point since they seemed to be the European business schools that are most aware of having to articulate the impact agenda, especially with the UK government’s REF intervention.

    Further, most UK business schools, with the exception of a few graduate schools, are university based and full service with a balance of research and teaching in their missions.

    From the targeted population of 130 UK business schools, we received answers from 42 respondents, representing 35 business schools (27%). Respondents who indicated their profiles included deans (38%), directors of research, (31%) and research managers (7%). Business schools in the sample included members of the Russell Group representing 24 leading UK universities (24%); the University Alliance Group of science and technology universities (24%); and the Million+ Group, a collection of 22 universities that were formerly polytechnics (7%).

    Different business school missions were represented by a range of institutions identified as research intensive (24%), teaching and research balanced (57%), and teaching intensive (19%). Finally, respondents who participated in the survey represent business schools that provide graduate programmes (98%) and executive education (79%).

    For the full article, you can view the PDF or listen to the podcast.

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