Socrates in the Boardroom: Why Research Universities Should Be Led by Top Scholars

By Amanda H. Goodall | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
DEANS OF THE TOP BUSINESS SCHOOLS

UNIVERSITIES ARE MADE UP OF COLLECTIONS OF UNITS, such as faculties, schools, academic departments, and others. They differ in size and focus, and importantly they have their own leadership. It was shown in the last chapter that on average the world's top universities appoint more highly cited scholars to lead them. In this chapter, I examine whether a similar pattern exists in a particular unit within universities—namely business schools. I ask: are better business schools also being led by better scholars?

Schools of medicine, law, education, and business are, arguably, more complex than traditional academic departments, because they straddle the two communities of research and practice. Thus they are an interesting case. The question of how much it matters if a leader has been a scholar is one that has been much debated in business schools since their inception. Indeed nonacademics are more often selected to head business schools than to run universities—as we will later see.

This chapter presents a second empirical contribution, again a correlation.1 It shows that the business schools that stand higher in the Financial Times global MBA ranking have deans with systematically higher levels of lifetime citations. This is for a sample of 100 business schools across nations. The robustness of the result is reinforced by the fact that I then find the same pattern, using a different performance measure in another dataset, among a set of UK business and management schools.

One reason business schools are interesting is that it is quite usual to find they are the largest single social-science department in a university. Not only has demand for management education spiraled over the last twenty years, but also business schools have often been viewed as earnings-cows by the universities that house them.2 The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is routinely the most highly priced course offered in universities. Thus, it is natural to see whether business schools mimic universities by appointing leaders who have been successful scholars.

Another issue is relevant. Discussion about the applicability of management research has rumbled on for a number of years. Within the field, publishing output is expected to be both scholarly and relevant to the “real

1 This work first appeared in a conference paper in 2006 (see Goodall [2006a]).

2 Figures available at http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/global-mba-rank-
ings on number of MBAs.

-46-

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