Should students care about faculty research?


The AACSB—the world’s leading business school accreditation agency—has just announced that it has formally accepted proposals to try to improve the practical relevance of academic research. Under its plan, accreditation of business schools will, to some degree, be dependent on schools proving that their faculties’ research programmes have some relevance to real-life work issues, and, furthermore, will have to demonstrate its impact in the business world.

It has long been a bone of contention amongst business schools as to whether research has—or even should have—any practical benefit. Some argue that it is too esoteric and quantitative, and rarely surfaces outside of equally esoteric and quantitative journals, read solely by other academics (and often not even by them). Others argue that research is “translated” into the real world through, among other things, teaching on MBA programmes.

But opinion is divided on this matter. Kai Peters chief executive officer of Ashridge Business School in Britain, told the Economist that he saw no overlap between what is being researched and what is being taught, arguing for researchers to concentrate on solving useful problems. Robert Salomon, Assistant Professor of Management at New York’s Stern School, on the other hand, wrote on his blog that “it is up to [professors] to expose students to state-of-the art research, to discuss the important questions of the field, to synthesise the existing findings [and to] explain those findings in an accessible way.” He even goes as far as to say: “I feel that if we are not bringing research into the classroom, then we are failing our students.”

But, for students, there is another side to the research debate. Schools’ reputations, and therefore, eventually, students’ career prospects, often hang on the research output of their faculties. A good reputation means getting research published in academic manuals which have little concern for the everyday world. Having “guru” professors—even if they rarely actually do any teaching—can therefore be beneficial, even if the ideas they are researching never surface in the classroom.

All of which begs some questions: how much do students actually care about the research that is being carried out in their business school? Does it matter whether that research is being applied in the real world? And how often do you feel that research filters through into the classroom?

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One Response to “Should students care about faculty research?”

  1. Bloggirl Says:

    I just don’t get why everyone is down on research. In my experience at a (very) top-ranked school some of the most fasciniating discussions were when profs brought in leading edge thinking into the classroom (I can’t speak for lesser schools – it obviously depends on the prof themself and the rigor of what they are teaching). It’s just one more thing that can give a students at the best schools an edge.

    And in any case, I don’t buy into the fact that an MBA is ONLY about what you can take into the workplace (though it mostly is, of course). It should also be considered an academic experience and as such anything that pushes the boundaries of knowledge should be considered useful.

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