Business schools look beyond faculty to provide management education

industry experts

More Business schools are harnessing industry experts to teach their students business education — PR specialists Kerry Ruffle and Stephanie Mullins from BlueSky Education explore how. 

Durham University Business School has recently announced a number of new appointments to its teaching staff to be in post for the new academic year. These positions were not filled by the typical candidates – professors of accounting and finance, for example, or other academics. Instead, they were filled by CEOs, entrepreneurs, company directors and heads of national industrial bodies. 

Joining the North East-based school will be Sarah Pritchard, Executive Director of Markets and Executive Director of International at the Financial Conduct Authority, and Michael Izza, Chief Executive at the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales, along with Ian Baggett, founder and CEO of Adderstone Group – one of the largest privately owned companies in the North East of England. 

They, along with a number of other industry experts, make up the roster for the school’s popular Professors in Practice initiative. 

Enriching students through real-world wisdom

Through this, experienced professionals across a wide variety of disciplines and industries can share their industry experience and expertise directly with students – from undergraduate to Masters, MBA and even PhD level. Not only do they straddle the barrier between academic and real-world insight, but such experts also help to bridge the divide between an institution’s departments, often belonging to and teaching as part of multiple faculties.

“Our Professors in Practice represent a significant “brains trust” and provide valuable insight into the world of professional practice in each of their specific areas,” says Dr Joanna Berry, Associate Dean for External Engagement at the School, noting how the initiative supports student’s career prospects by bringing knowledge, intelligence and external perspective into the classroom. 

The latest appointment, Ian Baggett, provides an additional link to Durham’s heritage and community. Not only is Ian referred to as ‘a local legend’, having built a number of successful companies across the North East, but he’s also an alumnus, offering students the chance to benefit from the wisdom of his study experiences as well as his business success.

Whilst Durham’s collection of industry experts is certainly impressive, other schools also offer such expertise and realism to their students. 

The University of Mannheim Business School, for example, regularly appoints C-level executives with research experience to honorary professor positions. Like Durham, with an influx of new voices each year, their industry experts teach across a wide range of programmes, support academic development and are considered adjunct faculty from practice. 

Bringing in the specialists 

In particular, when it comes to tackling specialisms and niche sectors of industry, bringing seasoned experts into the classroom provides students with a valuable and often unmatched educational experience. 

When it comes to teaching the finer details of entrepreneurship, Vlerick Business School connects its students to its roster of Entrepreneurs in Residence – a selection of well-established company founders and innovators from across the spectrum of industry, on hand to help students develop their ideas and know-how.   

The aspiring founders who come through Vlerick’s Entrepreneurship Academy have the benefit of accessing this pool of talents alongside academic expertise and expert business coaches, giving them a robust footing on the start-up scene. Not only can they build and hone their ventures in a safe environment, utilising knowledge gained from the classroom and their mentors, but they can also build a solid network of peers at the same time.  

Similarly, for institutions which offer industry specialisms through their educational offerings, the ability to pull first-hand experience as well as academic reasoning and insight into the classroom can prove to be a highly desirable pull for students when it comes to considering their future careers.

Powerful partnerships elevate learning

At Imperial College Business School, not only are Professors of Practice in residence across each of its six academic areas and multiple research centres, but in areas such as the School’s Executive Education department, such industry insights and connections help to tailor short-courses to accurately target current business trends and needs by pulling skilled individuals in from specific industry specialisms, and tapping into newer skills. 

Programmes such as the Leadership in a Technology Driven World short executive programme benefit from the tutelage of seasoned academic faculty as well as senior leaders from the Industry who take a hand in shaping and delivering course content.

Guest speakers are also welcomed from a diverse range of industries – including Olympic medallists-turned-performance culture specialists and authors. Similarly, for its Executive Health Innovation Management programme, participants benefit from the expertise of faculty from Imperial College Business School, IESE Business School and Copenhagen Business School, as well as industry professionals from NHS trusts, European hospitals, and healthcare innovation leaders. 

In the fight to stay relevant and keep classroom learning as close to the realities of the outside world, increasingly, industry experts are proving to be a powerful resource for business schools to harness.  

And for the students who opt to study under such a mix of voices and influences, the benefits can be unmatched.  

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