The History of UK Business and Management Education

Williams, Allan P.O. (2010)

Reviewer: Robert E. Jones, Oxon

This book provides the reader with an insightful appreciation of the increased emergence of management education (principally 20th Century) in the United Kingdom. It delivers both interesting and stimulating reading to a broad-spectrum of interested parties, i.e. business practitioners, academic teachers, aspiring students and or a more generally aligned readership. Commissioned by the Association of Business Schools (ABS) it doesn’t disappoint in providing an up-to-date appreciation of the historical influences contributing directly to the emergence and successful rise and rise of the business school phenomenon in the UK.

In the foreword Professor’s Morris and Thomas say that at the time of writing there were about 250,000 students of business and management at public UK universities with approximately 20,000 others in private institutions. In short a significant 15% of the total number of UK based students in higher education (HE) per se.

The author; Professor Allan Williams is currently Emeritus Professor at Cass Business School. He has published extensively in management and business primarily within the topical genres of human resource management (HRM), organisational development (OD) and latterly in leadership and organisational history. In this book he recognises the key individuals/institutions that were at the forefront in identifying and developing the knowledge, skills and capabilities of UK aspirant and established management practitioners. Whilst clear cognisance is credited to the US and its impact upon Business School ‘development’ in the UK, the book emphasises the UK. The books narrative in that respect is aided by a framework that highlights the principal factors attributable to consolidation and development of business management education in the UK.

The book commences with a historical perspective dually presented in a narrative that is interspersed with tabular information highlighting particular milestones germane to the last two centuries although rightly most attention is paid to those of the 20th Century. This provides an interesting and informative overview and contains easily remembered information that might prove useful to the reader for debate in this area specifically, or reinforcement of one’s personal understanding on a macro level. The book provides a comprehensive account of those organisations externally independent in a legal context, yet interdependent by nature of their existence and practice that have and continue to invoke a steady state of ‘authority’ on the practices and procedures of the public/private education sectors, for example:

  • Research institutes
  • Professional bodies
  • Informal networks
  • Pressure groups
  • Consultancies

The extraordinary escalation of business and management education (most certainly in the last fifty years) would simply not have transpired were it not for the creation of supportive institutions such as the above. By due process of their regulatory and instructive roles these institutions ensured that growth was achieved in tandem with high standards in both teaching and research, therefore enabling business and management educators to make positive contributions to the social and economic good of society as a whole.

Detailed focus on both the national and international standing of UK business schools, their respective trends in the quality ratings as revealed by various public assessments and media rankings are presented. In addition a reasonable cross-sectional selection of several business school histories are considered in order to recognise the numerous influences leading to ongoing development and strategies.

The final chapter draws together the major themes, combining the various findings in and around the ‘model’ as outlined in chapter one and from this proffers numerous conclusions with respect to those factors influencing both the leadership and cultures of individual institutions.

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