Addressing healthcare challenges through business education with UCL Global Business School for Health Director Nora Colton

UCL Global Business School for Health Director Nora Colton

As the world’s first business school dedicated to health, UCL Global Business School for Health (UCL GBSH) was conceived to reimagine global healthcare management and combat the various challenges facing healthcare systems today and in the future. Having accepted their first-ever students in September 2022, we spoke with the school’s inaugural Director, Nora Colton, a health and international development economist, about how the school came to be, the vision of the school, and the types of students they enrol. Here’s what she had to say:

Where did the concept of UCL GBSH come from?

In 2016, the founder of OC&C Strategy in London, Chris Outram, approached UCL with a novel idea: why not create a business school for health? Chris had noted that the healthcare sector was growing exponentially yet received little attention in the portfolios of many top business schools.

UCL was excited by the idea, given its focus on health and healthcare across several faculties. The Faculty of Population Health Science was the natural home for a business school focused on health. UCL also ranks 8th in the world and 1st in the UK for research power in medicine, health, and life sciences. Moreover, UCL is ranked 7th for public health research globally in the Shanghai rankings, with a large and vibrant community of academics working in this domain.

I was appointed in 2021, in the middle of the pandemic. There could not have been any greater inspiration than the pandemic and the focus it put on our health systems worldwide. The mission of developing the next generation of health and healthcare professionals to reimagine health systems, many such systems that were simply unable to cope, let alone meet the needs of their populations, transformed my thinking about what such a business school could and should achieve. I quickly realised that we needed to be much more than a business school with a health offering, but a business school with health in everything it undertook. Moreover, I wanted to create an academic community for students and staff where disciplinary lines were blurred to challenge and solve the grand health challenges facing our health systems from a business and management perspective.

How does the school collaborate with healthcare organisations and other industries to enhance its students’ learning experience?

GBSH was envisioned to collaborate with exceptional institutions linked to the wider healthcare industry, healthcare providers, NGOs and other centres of excellence worldwide.

We continue to be committed to producing world-leading graduates who will shape the health sector. A student at UCL GBSH cannot graduate without working with a health organisation of some type, and all of our postgraduate students have industry projects and consultancies as high-impact activities within their programmes. We also have an exceptional group of healthcare leaders who form our health executives in residence programme. These individuals include hospital administrators, healthcare leaders, pharmaceutical and biotechnology leaders and digital health innovators, acting as guest lecturers as well as mentors for our students. By partnering with UCL GBSH, they nurture and connect our talented students with fresh ideas and the determination to drive change.

Moreover, our academics and advocates represent the full multidisciplinary spectrum of the global health sector. UCL GBSH plays a decisive convening role, bringing together thought leaders and changemakers to tackle key health challenges in collaboration with partners who offer helpful direction on strategic sector priorities.

What type of applicants should apply to UCL GBSH, and how do you address diversity and inclusion?

We are truly a business school for health, so we take students from a variety of backgrounds depending on the programme. Most of our students are either from a business and/or health background. Our MBA Health also has students from clinical and non-clinical backgrounds.

We are global both in terms of our students and academic staff. We also ensure that our curriculum is not biased to one particular health system or approach to healthcare, as well as spend a significant amount of time and energy thinking about how we can ensure our diverse students and academics feel a sense of belonging and safety so they can speak up and engage.

All of our programmes include a variety of onboarding activities and events, and many of our modules are taught using a flipped classroom so that when students come to class, they are engaging through case studies, simulations and experiential learning. Lastly, we have several scholarships that focus on ensuring that a diverse group of students can afford our programmes.

What challenges do you think higher and business education might face in the coming years?

I believe one of the most pressing issues for higher and business education will be to adopt systems and means to ensure that the education we are offering students is relevant to the workplace. We live in a period of constant change where roles and jobs are also changing. It has never been more important to embed and work alongside industry and the economy to prepare our students for the workplace of the future. We need to be true to our ideals about interdisciplinarity, not just in our research, but in the way we educate the next generation. We hear much about AI in the education and workplace, but there is still much for us to do to ensure health and well-being for our populations that can be assisted, not replaced, by technology and innovation. Ensuring a growth mindset of reimagining our future, jobs, and society is at the heart of meeting the challenges of the next several years.