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    Go East

    Founded in 2017, King’s Business School shares a number of qualities with its Asian counterparts. Young, vibrant, looking for connections and ready to tackle some of the world’s pressing problems. Professor Stephen Bach, Executive Dean of the business school, sat down with QS-GEN in Singapore to discuss why the college is looking East. Anton John Crace reports.

    QS: Historically, business schools, especially those primarily offering MBAs, were an American idea. In the 1980s and 1990s, the model started to make its way across the Atlantic into Europe and in the late 1990 and early 2000s across the Pacific into Asia. The leaders of business schools we speak to in Asia talk about using their relative youth as a selling point for differentiation. King’s Business School is very young as well. How are you differentiating yourselves?

    Stephen Bach: One of the things we are really conscious of is that the world is moving East and we are careful not to be too UK-centric or US-centric in our orientation and in our curriculum. That’s reflected in the makeup of our student body and in our staff. We have 80-90 nationalities, our faculty is very international; that allows us to look at business in different contexts. So we are global in our nature.

    Our other key differentiator is that we are putting sustainability and responsible business at the heart of King’s Business School, threading this through our curriculum in a variety of ways. For instance, business ethics is a mandatory topic at an early stage in our undergraduate programmes, and it is a consideration throughout our courses and modules. We also encourage our students to do consultancy projects, not just with big multinationals, but to support small businesses that we identify through our partnerships with our local municipalities. London is a city of huge inequality. You can move two kilometres down the road and you move from incredible wealth to incredible poverty. We think it is important for our students to understand that.

    We’re doing a lot more on the ESG – environmental, social and governance – considerations that businesses face. We want our students understand the complexities and the trade-offs between the three elements and how to generate both financial returns and societal returns.

    Next year, we’re launching our executive MBA: better business for a better world. We see that as quite an under-innovated market. Our EMBA will be focussed on big global challenges and our aim is to equip people to lead businesses under conditions of great uncertainty. How do you manage the complexities of ESG impact investing? What about the values that your people hold in different generations? How do you reconcile them? This interaction between business and society is very central to how we think about the role of the business school at King’s.

    QS: During the pandemic itself, but especially now, the discipline within business that kept coming up over and over again was supply chain management, for example within the area of silicon chip manufacturing. Is there anything that Kings is noticing as a new area of business study and concern?

    SB: I think we’re going to be seeing a lot more focus on the ‘S’ of ESG. At King’s we have a very strong Human Resource Management and Strategy, International Management and Entrepreneurship Departments working on issues like modern slavery and how we keep illegal and exploitative employment practises out of our supply chains. There is also work on the varieties of diversity. Not just gender diversity, but we also do a lot of work on disability. For example, we help run the All Party Parliamentary Group on Disability which raises UK parliamentarians’ understanding of disability related issues, including the issue of access to work.

    Another very critical focus at the moment is health systems. I think health systems around the world are under huge strain, both in terms of the burden on the workforce and the expectations around the potential of new innovations and technologies. I think business schools like ours, working in partnership with King’s health faculties, with our engineers and lawyers, have got a lot to say about how we could transform those health systems.

    QS: There’s an academic perspective that argues the class lines run much deeper than racial and gender lines. One of the areas we’re always pushing is the understanding that there are no bad students just students in bad situations. How is King’s living its values in this area?

    SB: Traditionally these issues have loomed large in British society. There are a number of ways in to answer your question.

    One of the things that we’ve done as a business school is we work very closely with the Sutton Trust, an organisation that very much works in the area of bringing people of disadvantaged backgrounds into universities, to lift their sights in a variety of ways. We start early around the ages of 15 or 16 with some of our local schools in pockets of real deprivation that have many families with no previous experience of higher education. We bring the students in for half a day or a day and just try to ignite their interests. For example, we might talk about the role of social media and branding: something that relates to our areas of academic focus and which is going to get them talking.

    We also have a couple of more structured programmes, working with students closely, mentoring them and then bring them through a foundation programme. It’s not automatic that they would get into the business school, but we have a very high success rate and many will go on to other universities. This year, in terms of students from the UK, 48 percent of our undergraduates came from what we call widening participation backgrounds. We’re very pleased about that, but we’re also not naive. We then need to track their progress. Are they dropping out? It doesn’t appear to be the case, but we need to keep very close tabs on that.

    QS: What is King’s looking to achieve, having strong partnerships with in Singapore and Asia?

    SB: This is a very important market for King’s Business School going forward. We see Singapore as a tremendous area of growth; in financial services and other areas and other parts of the economy. We see Singapore as a gateway to this part of the world. There’s an increasing number of applications from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia. We want to attract the best students to come to King’s Business School so that they can avail themselves of an amazing education and stay to start their early careers in London – something that is enabled by our visa regulations.

    We also we want to connect with our alumni in the region and draw them more into the business school. We want them to get involved in activities like our student mentoring programmes, or perhaps to draw on our talented students for their organisations’ own internship schemes.

    Connections in the region could also be valuable for our new EMBA programme, which will be global in scope: one thing we are interested in exploring is virtual classrooms of students working in London with students maybe at some of the institutions here. This is an important and growing centre both economically and in terms of higher education, so we want to engage with our alumni here and think about future partnerships that will enrich our education and our research.

    This article was from the QS Global Education News Issue 10. Download the full edition.

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