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Paul Marshall, the Association of Business Schools, UK

PM: It’s a combination of things. There have been lots of stories in the press, such as with London Metropolitan University, about issues around the quality we are getting in the UK. We are not doing a particularly good job in terms of marketing jointly or being particularly strategic about our international market.

ABS has 120 members within the UK and a growing international membership

But we also have to recognise, particularly in business and management, that there is a very rapid growth in the development of good quality business schools, particularly in India and China.

“There is a very rapid growth in the development of good quality business schools, particularly in India and China”

The PIE: Are schools in these emerging markets climbing the rankings?

PM: Yes. If you look at the Financial Times’ MBA rankings, the UK is second only to the US with fourteen schools in the Top 100, three schools in the Top 50, and one, the London Business School, in the Top 10.  But there are now five Chinese business schools in the top 100, including one in the top 10 and three in the top 50.  There are now two Indian business schools in the Top 20.  So this isn’t just about the UK’s attractiveness in terms of people coming here.

The PIE: What can the UK do to shore up its position?

PM: We have to respond by very actively thinking about what is it that we can offer which is unique or different. We may need to accept that in the long run we will have fewer international students coming to the UK for some of those big markets, but actually we need to be getting out into their markets – working in partnership with those schools, and maybe building on the research quality that we have. Good examples include the University of Nottingham, whose Business School is actually bigger at its China and in Malaysia campuses than it is in Nottingham.

So we’ve got is some really good examples now of business schools which are genuinely multinational and delivering quality teaching and research out in those markets. Those markets may even start to support our schools. There’s a lot of Chinese money going into developing the Australian business schools at the moment.  If you go to the University of Technology Sydney, they are in the process of building an entirely new business school right in the central business district in Sydney, entirely funded by Chinese Alumni donations.

“Sometimes we in the UK don’t realise how strong our brand is overseas”

The PIE: Do you think the UK brand is strong overseas? 

PM: In the UK Business Studies took a long time to evolve, unlike in the US or France, because it wasn’t seen as a real academic subject. Oxford and Cambridge have only had business schools for the last ten years. In fact, the best Business Schools in the UK are often standalone like the London Business School, and even those at some of the ‘new’ universities founded in the 1960s polytechnics have a stronger international profile than Russell Group universities.

Take the Lancaster Business School, which has its own operations out in Delhi, Lahore and Dubai. Many within the UK would not necessarily know these things were going on. Actually, David Cameron visited the Lancaster Business School in Lahore a few years ago. The Prime Minister’s team said afterwards how surprised they had been to have arrived in Lahore to find so many adverts for the school on the streets, on buses.

So sometimes we in the UK don’t realise how strong our brand is overseas in some of these markets. I think we have such a heritage of welcoming international students, many of whom have gone on to positions of power internationally, and it is these strong networks we must build on.

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