Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Keep the Cream, Willetts Tells 'Cash Cow' Business Schools

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Keep the Cream, Willetts Tells 'Cash Cow' Business Schools

Article excerpt

Minister says cross-subsidisation of other units should be rethought. David Matthews writes.

David Willetts has argued for a "new contract" between universities and their business schools in which the latter get to keep more of their teaching income.

Speaking at the Association of Business Schools' annual conference at the University of Warwick on 15 October, the universities and science minister questioned whether cross-subsidising other subjects using income from business students was a "stable business model".

Many deans of business schools "regard themselves as cash cows that are being used to finance other activities in the rest of the university", he said.

"What strikes me is the number of private conversations I have when visiting business schools where, in the course of the discussion, the head of the business school confesses to me that he or she wants to do a UDI (unilateral declaration of independence)," Mr Willetts continued.

According to an ABS survey carried out last year, about a third of business school deans thought that their department was making too much of a contribution to the running of other disciplines.

Asked whether he would be sympathetic towards greater autonomy for business schools or even independence, Mr Willetts said that he could envisage "a new type of contract between a business school and the rest of the university in which perhaps the business school gets to keep more of the revenues generated by its students".

In return, business schools could help the wider university with activities such as entrepreneurship schemes and planning expansion abroad, he suggested.

He said that the rise in tuition fees this year did not mean that universities could not cross-subsidise courses, but he added that the pressures to reduce this practice would rise as students asked what they were getting for their money. …

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