Bringing Study Abroad Back Home: The Struggle to Adapt Management Education into British Universities in the 1960s

Friday, January 3, 2014: 3:10 PM
Washington Room 6 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Mitchell J. Larson, University of Central Lancashire
One of the curiosities of twentieth-century British history which historians have discussed at some length is the relatively late arrival of formal university qualifications in business and management to Britain. Competitor nations on both sides of the Atlantic had introduced management education in universities several years or even decades earlier but for a variety of reasons Britain did not immediately follow this trend. The small number of Britons who studied management abroad, particularly in America, returned to the UK charged with enthusiasm for this style and level of business training. More importantly, however, these enthusiasts had the financial and political power to motivate others to respond to their call for graduate school degree programs in business in UK universities. This paper traces the disagreements, debates, and discussions that took place between the three main groups who influenced the development of what eventually became the London and Manchester Business Schools in 1965. Through archival sources we can examine the perspectives of government ministers and civil servants, business leaders for and against the project, and leading academics on both sides of the issue, and thereby see how the adaptation process took place as the “study abroad” experience of a tiny minority was translated into a British university context during the late 1950s and early 1960s. A very small group of determined men with overseas experience questioned traditional attitudes regarding the appropriateness of business affairs in a university setting. Their actions paved the way for university business schools, adapted primarily but not exclusively from American models, to spread across Britain during the last fifty years. While their study abroad experience would not be replicated in the UK, its heavily contested adaptation showed that advocates recognized potential benefits to the British economy if a version of the overseas experience could be offered at home.
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