BizHisCol Webinar – Appreciating the history of business education

25/05/2021 16.00 UK

Appreciating the history of business education

Register here

Presenter: JC Spender (Kozminski University)
Chair: Nicholas Wong (Northumbria University)

We claim BSch are ‘professional schools’ – with no demonstrable relationship between management education and managerial competence.  Critics question the entire enterprise.  History can help clarify what is going on.  I hypothesize BSchs should be understood as political entities, democratic capitalism’s madrassas, not its ‘science’ labs.  The students are institutionalized, not trained.  But how and into what?  We can compare the history of management education in the US and the UK, given the different politics, to identify differences that reveal BSchs true nature.

Khurana’s canonical US story has three phases: management as a 19th century social duty, post-WW2 managerialism, and 1980’s financialization.  Free re-engagement with duty is the proper way forward.  Contrary to BSch as private-sector institutions, the European story goes back to 17th century state-craft.  Woodrow Wilson argued public-sector Cameralist techniques could be valuable to the US private sector (Wilson 1887).  Edmund James’s 1893 ABA Report on the European schools provided plans for the local BSch that began to flourish around the turn of the century.  Note Wharton was set up as a pro-tariff BSch to counter the free-trade economics being taught.

The UK story is of little until the Franks Report in 1963 and the establishment of LBS and MBS in 1965 (I was an early MBS student).  This was a political initiative, reflecting the elitist orientation evident at the Administrative Staff College and Henley.  Commercial education, urged by Quaker business, certainly existed before WW2 but was non-U.  As UK BSch proliferated post-Franks, the staff college curriculum was displaced by the private-sector US curriculum and A-journal methods.  UK BSch merged into the Pax-Americana post-WW2 political project.  Now, with around 25% of college students doing ‘business studies’ we urgently need clarity on our community’s fundamental questions.