Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 92

Submission from the Association of MBAs

  1.  This submission is made on behalf of the Association of MBAs (AMBA) which is a UK charity which was established in 1967 and has the prime objective of promoting graduate business education. The Association's accreditation service is internationally recognised as the global standard for all MBA, DBA and MBM programmes and, for instance, now accredits MBA programmes at 142 business schools in 67 countries worldwide, including over forty in the UK. AMBA also offers the only professional membership association for MBA students and graduates.

  2.  Management has been identified by government as key to the future prosperity of the United Kingdom, eg by its endorsement of the report by the Council on Excellence in Management and Leadership. Similarly the previous Education and Skills Committee's report on Post-16 Skills highlighted how a stronger focus is needed on developing management skills per se—an area identified as particularly weak in the UK and largely neglected to date in policy (Volume 1, paragraph 8).

  3.  The recommendations in the Leitch Report and the Government's Leitch implementation plan "World Class Skills" called for a much greater focus on higher-level "economically valuable skills". The Leitch Report recognised the high levels of demand for management skills and the growing evidence base demonstrating the strong links between the impact of management skills and increased national competitiveness. The Leitch Report suggested that up to 20% of that gap is now attributed to skills provision and up to 15% to management practices.

  4.  At the Universities UK inaugural annual lecture given by Richard Lambert, Director-General of the CBI, on 11 December he observed that it is a natural career progression for individuals to take management as a second degree at postgraduate level.

  5.  Management is indeed a well established subject for study by specialists of many different sorts who wish to advance their careers by taking up senior management responsibilities. This is of considerable advantage not merely for the individuals concerned but for the wider UK economy. Excellent management skills, as facilitated by a quality MBA or other management education, are crucial for enabling the optimal deployment of resources for the greater economic benefit and welfare of the UK.

  6.  It is therefore in the public interest case to help well qualified graduates to attain high level management education as contributors to the UK's competitiveness. We should be encouraging engineers, scientists, medical practitioners, educationalists and others at a later stage in their careers as they move into managerial roles to undertake management education, including an MBA, after a specialist masters or PhD education. The proposed change will have the opposite effect.

  7.  These policy proposals do not appear to recognise that management is often a secondary discipline that experienced employees will study on a part-time basis, at an equivalent level to their initial specialist subject area, having been promoted into a position where they take on new management responsibilities. It is an established route of career progression for individuals to take a management degree as a second degree, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. In many cases employers are already providing support in terms of granting time off for study leave rather than by direct funding.

  8.  The proposals will have a disproportionate impact on those hoping to undertake these part-time management studies, which are the majority of MBA students. The HEFCE modeling of the withdrawal of funding for ELQs by subject, mode and level clearly demonstrates the impact on management qualifications. Table 1 of this modeling shows that of the overall 52,504 students to be negatively affected by the proposed changes, 9,776 (19%) will be those studying business and administration. The more detailed breakdown by level indicates that of the 9,776, the majority of those affected will be those studying on a part-time basis (7,211 students). This is a disproportionate number compared to any other subject listed.

  9.  Baroness Sharp stated in the House of Lords: "It hits disproportionately precisely those institutions—universities and FE colleges—which have been doing most to widen participation and encourage those who have traditionally not gone into higher education to do so. It is not just Birkbeck and the Open University, but the likes of the London South Bank University, Westminster, Anglia Ruskin University, Barking College and Lewisham College."

  10.  The quantum of money involved for some schools is such that it may have a serious effect not only on the students directly affected but also on the total provision by that school. It is of particular concern that many of the institutions who have done the most to widen participation to those already in the workplace in terms of part-time courses are likely to be hit hardest by the ELQ funding reforms.

January 2008

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