Employers urged to build bridges with business schools

Employers are seeking ‘business-ready’ graduates, but are not doing enough to offer extended, meaningful work experience, a new report from CMI (the Chartered Management Institute), the Association of Business Schools (ABS) and the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) has discovered. Only one fifth of businesses questioned (22%) currently offer job placements or internships to business school students. Yet, 89% of respondents agreed that embedding work experience within business courses would make students more employable. Employers questioned as part of the report ‘21st saw that meaningful work experience would develop students’ skills through learning by doing, applying theory learnt in the classroom to real world situations and gaining a more rounded and realistic view of the world of work.

The change in emphasis – with businesses committing to offering suitable work placements – would benefit employers as 51% currently report they have difficulties in recruiting high calibre new managers because they cannot find the candidates with the right skills. Indeed, the report reveals that employers do not naturally look to business schools as their preferred source of interns or permanent recruits; only 17% of employers recruit directly from business schools when recruiting first time managers. Instead, more than a third (45%) use business schools to train and develop staff focusing on executive education rather than recruitment.

The report also finds that the employers have low awareness of the innovations that have taken place in recent years; 40% of employers surveyed could not say if business schools did or did not understand the needs of organisations like theirs, whilst 47% could not say whether or not business schools in their area are well-connected with the local business community. These outmoded perceptions mean just under a third (31%) of employers do not think there is a business case for working with universities. This is despite evidence that shows that business and management education provides £3.25bn of revenue to the UK and that businesses that are physically located nearest to business schools have better-quality management.

The report also recognises that professional bodies, like CMI, have a complementary role to play in recognising and accrediting professional management skills within the business school curriculum. 75 per cent of employers agreed that more graduates should seek professional qualifications alongside their academic achievements to give employers evidence of their practical/applied skills. Employers welcome such professional accreditation as this helps to demonstrate that courses are relevant to the world of work, meet professional standards and include ethical codes.

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of CMI, says: “Stronger collaboration between business schools, employers and professional bodies will result in a better generation of leaders and also help lay the groundwork for greater innovation, management capability, and growth. It’s a win-win situation because employers get professionally trained, practically-skilled managers who can deliver results from day one – while graduates boost their career and progression prospects and universities improve student satisfaction, attracting more and better candidates.”

The report further recommends that business schools work to develop stronger relationships with SMEs. The survey shows that 68 per cent of employers believe that business courses are too focused on the agenda of big business rather than preparing students for working in SMEs. Given there are an estimated 4.9 million small and medium-sized businesses in the UK, employing 24.3 million people the report recommends that this can be tackled by business schools and universities forging closer working relationships with SMEs, through routes like the new Small Business Charter and by working with Local Economic Partnerships.

CMI, the Association of Business Schools and QAA reviewed the current business and management curriculum, working closely with the ABS’s membership of 118 UK business schools and over 500 employers and management experts, through CMI’s Regional and Devolved Nation Boards across the UK.

Jane Harrington, Vice Chair, Association of Business Schools commented: “We need to ensure that business schools are positioned as the agents of innovation and growth, and a key source of talent for employers. This report underlines that the curricula must be robust and relevant, enabling students to embrace an innovative, ethical and entrepreneurial ethos and bring this into the workplace. The more effectively universities work with business and with the professional bodies that support businesses and growth the greater opportunities we have for effectively developing UK talent.”

Anthony McClaran, CEO, QAA added: “Increasing employer engagement and enhancing students’ employability are key strategic priorities for the Agency. We were, therefore, keen to participate in the development of this report and fully support its conclusions and key recommendations. A practice-based curriculum can be best achieved through closer working between employers and business schools. This collaboration will not only reap rewards for both HEIs and businesses but, crucially, develop the work readiness of new and future graduates.”


Further information:

For further information and interviews please contact:

• Georgie Gerard – georgie.gerard@kindredagency.com or 020 7010 0807

• Laura Bates – laura.bates@kindredagency.com or 020 7010 0817

Notes to editors


• The report is based on statistical research with a survey of 1065 CMI members across the country; a survey of 38 business schools from the Association of Business Schools membership of 118; and 13 facilitated workshops with over 500 attendees from business schools, employers, entrepreneurs and practising managers held throughout the nation.

• The full report is being launched at the House of Commons at 4pm on 9 June by Lord Young of Graffham, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Small Business and Enterprise, and will then be available to download at www.managers.org.uk/21Cleaders and #21CLeaders

• CMI – the Chartered Management Institute – is the only chartered professional body for management and leadership, dedicated to improving managers’ skills and growing the number of qualified managers.

• Our unique professional management qualifications span GCSE to PhD level, with the Chartered Manager award providing managers with the professional recognition that increases earnings potential and improves workplace performance.

• We provide employers and individual managers with access to the latest management thinking and with practical online support which helps them embrace change, create high performing teams and keep ahead of the curve.

• With a member community of 100,000 managers and leaders, we promote high standards of ethical practice through our Professional Code of Conduct, and help managers build their expertise through online networks, regional events and mentoring opportunities.

• Visit www.managers.org.uk for more information.

Association of Business Schools

• The ABS is the voice for the UK’s Business Schools and independent Management Colleges and sets the agenda for business and management education in the UK within an increasingly international environment. It develops influential policies and promotes, communicates and lobbies on these at local, regional, national and international levels as appropriate.

• See more at: http://www.associationofbusinessschools.org

• Twitter: @Londonabs


• QAA safeguards the public interest in the quality and standards of UK higher education. We check how UK universities and colleges maintain their academic standards and quality. We review and report on how they meet their responsibilities, identify good practice and make recommendations for improvement. We publish guidelines to help UK universities and colleges develop effective systems to ensure students have the best learning experience. Further information is available at: www.qaa.ac.uk.