A Guide To How Business Schools Can Develop Academic Staff To Engage With Smes

Siân Rees , Alexandra Anderson, Joan Lockyer, Tzameret H. Rubin, Jennie Shorley, Matthew Sutherland, Puala Whitehouse

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

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The impetus for business schools to work with small firms is growing. At over 98% of the UK business population, it is essential that our education and research are relevant and useful to Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in terms of their growth and sustainability, to support business, and indeed university resilience, in our uncertain economic climate. The profound disruption of the global Covid 19 pandemic has consolidated this push to help bolster our small business population, as well as of course having profound impacts on the number of new small firms, the focus of these companies themselves, and their digital transformation.
Yet the take up of business school programmes among SMEs is low, and leadership skills gaps in small firms persist, despite UK and devolved governments’ funding and focus.
The Chartered Association of Business Schools (Chartered ABS) therefore invited academics from business schools around the UK to explore how schools can develop their staff to engage with SMEs. The working group’s focus was on identifying interventions to increase the amount of business school engagement with SMEs, while examining the barriers and how some schools have overcome them. It also explored enablers of engagement and based its recommendations around practice in Small Business Charter (SBC) awarded schools and insights gained from relevant literature and policy documents. This working group has developed this report before and during the global pandemic, which has of course also hugely affected universities and business schools themselves.
This document is designed primarily to be a practical aid to decision making for business school leaders, in terms of “what works” in terms of developing staff to engage with SMEs although it may be of interest to a wider stakeholder group, for example the Small Business Charter Board.
Following secondary research and case study development, and in acknowledgement of changing landscapes for both small firms and universities, 44recommendations have been proposed, which, for the most part, map onto the identified barriers and challenges. These recommendations are not Covid-specific, but have been evaluated in the light of the seismic changes to both small firms and business schools during this period, and are designed to support resilience and deeper collaborative relationships for recovery and growth.
The significant list of recommendations is not proposed to be undertaken in its entirety; it is anticipated that readers will use this document as a resource and may well find some sections more relevant and useful than others. It is also likely that there are other staff development approaches which have proved successful to universities which are not captured here – the working group welcomes contributions which add to the recommendations made at the end of this report .
Original languageEnglish
PublisherChartered Association of Business Schools
Commissioning bodySmall Business Charter
Number of pages65
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Charter


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