The EFMD business magazine

Business schools and society: Opportunities and accountability

Business schools can create new opportunities, says Alfons Sauquet, if they continue to reflect on their role in society.

A good deal of pressure has been exerted on business schools in the wake of the financial crisis, on what our contribution; could have been or should have been. But let’s reflect instead on the actual contribution that business schools make, or can make, to society. By taking stock of how we contribute to society, we can pave the way forward towards a sustainable, meaningful input in the future.

Business schools undoubtedly play a great number of different roles in society. Their systematic contact with more than 250,000 Gmat takers each year and their direct access to leading companies and institutions ensures this. Yet the extent to which each role is taken on, and the importance schools and society give to it, depend greatly on the context in which they find themselves. Notwithstanding the vast array of socio-political realities, the voices of different deans and academics brought together in the book Business Schools and their Contribution to Society highlight a kind of impact-on-society-mix that business schools around the world work with. While the weight schools give to each area varies, most are capable of exerting some influence in each.

To start with, let’s address the simple role business schools play in attracting, training and developing talent. sophisticated human capital is vital for economic development, and business school-trained managers should be in a position to provide the operational knowledge and the sound, efficient decision-making that fast-growing companies need. Business schools located in emerging countries have to prioritise the production of graduates educated to the best possible level to take advantage of the positive economic context at hand and thus, help the country to grow. In such cases the main focus of the schools is on talent generation, as this is what stakeholders expect from them.

The second, and much debated, role of business schools in society is the responsibility we have for instilling values in the next generation of business leaders. education in general can be described as a way of empowering people to become active agents in the transformation of their societies. so the task of training future societal transformers does not lie solely with business schools. however, there is no doubt that educational establishments are expected to deliver graduates who have been provided with an ethical framework, and a sense of the “big picture” as the background to managerial decision-making. A number of business schools already treat this issue as vital and go to great lengths to understand their part in it, and have imaginatively integrated this into their curricula.

For the full article, you can view the PDF.

Business schools and society: Opportunities and accountability

See more articles from Vol.06 Issue 01 – ’12.

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