Aarhus University’s business school challenges tradition

People should not expect for BSS to get in line behind all the other traditional and academically narrow business schools, emphasises Dean Svend Hylleberg in today's issue of Jyllandsposten.

2014.03.07 | Mette Gebauer Johannsen

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Featured article printed in Jyllandsposten, 7 March 2014.

By Dean Svend Hylleberg, School of Business and Social Sciences.

Lately, the local media in Aarhus have identified a concern that the business school at Aarhus University is not internationally viable and does not have enough focus on establishing contact with the business community. But this is certainly not the case. On the contrary, the university is working ambitiously towards establishing a business school of high academic and international quality, setting new standards on several accounts both on a local and international scale. 

During a merger, such as the one School of Business and Social Sciences (BSS) has been through over the last couple of years, it seems only natural to focus on the internal challenges and  lose momentum in the more external areas of the organisation. This did happen at AU, but we are now engaged in a major buildup both in terms of recruiting students and further strengthening our cooperation with the business community.

Study programmes in high demand

BSS is home to about 14,000 full-time students, and in 2013 there was restricted admission on almost all the school’s Bachelor’s degree programmes, which means that our new students are admitted with a much higher grade average than before.

There is no sign that it is difficult for the young people to spot BSS, nor is it in any way hard for the new business school to recruit new students. We have also increased the recruitment of international researchers, and there is no indication that the meger has lead to difficulties on aspects of employment – on the contrary.

But this does not mean that we are content with the school’s level of visibility towards the business community, and we work to strengthen our efforts in this area. However, as we have learned from both research and business practices, it takes time to establish a new brand.

An academically broad business school

People should not expect for BSS to get in line behind all the other traditional and academically narrow business schools. If we did this, in the future there would no room for BSS among the world’s most prominent international business schools. And we are not interested in that; neither is the business community nor the many students who wish to get a globally oriented education from a leading business school.

Based on Aarhus University’s overall strategy, BSS wants to contribute to solving the great social challenges that the world is facing; challenges that cannot be solved merely by relying on the traditional and relatively narrow academic disciplines.

In the field of business administration this has been made very clear following the financial crisis that we are still struggling our way out of and in light of recent social sciences research, where growing databases, improved conditions for experimental research and better brain research show that there is a need for a much broader view of what constitutes a high quality, applicable business education. 

Therefore, we are convinced that establishing this new broad business school is a necessary step towards making sure that, in ten years, the School of Business and Social Sciences and also Aarhus University will be able to compete with the best schools and accommodate the needs and demands of the business community and society at large.

Strengthened academic environments

The merger between the former Faculty of Social Sciences (SAM) and the former Aarhus School of Business (ASB) lead to a consolidation of many of the school’s academic areas. More researchers were employed, which meant a significant improvement in the proportion of teaching by researchers. The merger also meant that BSS now covers the majority of the areas of research and teaching that are applicable to a business school aimed at being globally competitive in the future.

There are two departments at BSS that are home to largely all the disciplines that are traditionally referred to as “core business”: the Department of Business Administration and the Department of Economics and Business.

Moreover, BSS also comprises a department of business communication, law, psychology, political science (which includes research on public administration) as well as a department in Herning working with business administration, engineering and communication.

Accreditations are on the way
The media have previously written about our work to obtain the so-called Triple Crown accreditation. To earn Triple Crown, we must maintain the European EQUIS accreditation that BSS adopted from ASB and obtain the American accreditation AACSB as well as the special accreditation of MBA programmes called AMBA. It is a very ambitious goal, which signifies just how high we aim at BSS.

In 2013 we secured the AACSB accreditation, and following a visit from AMBA we were given four specific points that we need to improve on. By doing so, we will have secured the AMBA accreditation before the end of 2014.  We were also recommended for reaccreditation by EQUIS, but unfortunately EFMD’s evaluation panel chose not to follow the recommendation. The main reason for this was that they found BSS to be more of a social science faculty with activities that do not belong in a business school. We strongly disagree on this point and have asked for a reexamination. For when the peer review team returns we will have prepared much stronger arguments in favour of the broad business school, and we will adjust the organisation a bit, making it even clearer that the school does comprise a core business unit.

We hope that by the end of the year we will have achieved our goal of securing all three business school accreditations.

In conclusion, I want to underline that all three peer review teams have expressed that they greatly acknowledge the high quality academic content of our degree programmes, our dedicated employees and students, the school’s fundamentally healthy financial.

 

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