Newcastle University aspires to be a world-class civic university delivering benefits to individuals, organisations and to society as a whole, so it was a delight for the Business School to host Professor John Goddard OBE, Emeritus Professor of Regional Development Studies and former Deputy Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University to speak about his recently published book The University and the City co-authored with Paul Vallance.
John is a leading proponent of the civic university concept, arguing in a 2009 NESTA Provocation that all publicly funded universities in the UK have a civic duty to engage with wider society on the local, national and global scales, and to do so in a manner which links the social to the economic spheres.
John revealed three tensioned themes emerging from his research – passive local physical, social and economic impacts of universities (campus footprint, student purchasing power, employment generation) vis a vis their active engagement in the development of the city; economic vis a vis more holistic views of engagement with civil society and the ‘external’ civic role of the university vis a vis ‘internal’ processes within the university and state higher education policies that shape these external relations.
John’s distinguishing attributes of a ‘civic university’ are:
- It is actively engaged with the wider world as well as the local community of the place in which it is located. This engagement is achieved through dialogue and collaborations with individuals, institutions and groups locally, nationally and globally.
- It takes a holistic approach to engagement, seeing it as institution wide activity and not confined to specific individuals or teams.
- It has a strong sense of place. While it may operate on a national and international scale, it recognises the extent to which is location helps to form its unique identity as an institution.
- It has a sense of purpose – an understanding of not just what it is good at, but what it is good for.
- It is willing to invest in order to have impact beyond the academy. This includes releasing financial resources to support certain projects or activities, or to ‘unlock’ external sources of funding.
- It is transparent and accountable to its stakeholders and the wider public.
- It uses innovative methodologies such as social media and team building in its engagement activities with the world at large.
Plenty of food for thought, especially for a Business School. What does a ‘civic’ business school look like and how well does Newcastle University Business School fit that description?
Those are questions for a later post, but as I was pondering them I came across an article in the Financial Times (15 April 2013) by Della Bradshaw on German Business Schools. She notes that while Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world, the country has no world-renowned business schools or top-ranked MBA programmes. In the article Robert Wardrop, research fellow in sociology and finance at the Judge Business School, University of Cambridge, ascribes this to the stakeholder value model of German business, which is incompatible with the methodologies that drive most Business School rankings. The MBA rankings tend to have an emphasis on salary maximisation, the traditional US individualist justification for undertaking an MBA. So, another question, does the third of John Goddard’s tensioned themes – the external role of a civic institution vis a vis internal processes and state policies have an added dimension for Business Schools?
Do Business School rankings take sufficient regard of an institution’s ‘civic’ role? In a time of unprecedented societal challenges globally I would like to suggest they should.
Dr Fiona Whitehurst, Director of Accreditation