Business studies in higher education : towards a new understanding
The study of business has been popularly characterised as incompatible with a higher education founded on liberal values. However, this characterisation is based on perceptions which have not previously taken account of the pedagogic belief-systems of lecturers. This thesis sets out to re-examine the relationship between the teaching of business subjects and the goals of higher education by exploring the attitudes of Business Studies lecturers in UK higher education. An analytical framework is constructed as a basis for researching lecturer attitudes to a Business Studies first degree. Business Studies lecturers are largely committed to the vocational preparation of students but adopt contrasting pedagogic positions in seeking to achieve this goal. 'Pragmatic synthesisers' looked to the acquisition of knowledge and skills and the ability to solve problems, while 'critical evaluators' defined their primary pedagogic purpose as encouraging students to reflect on and to evaluate knowledge claims. There is also an epistemological schism among lecturers based on attitudes to business knowledge. Lecturers with a background in social science disciplines had a context-independent attitude to knowledge. They are suspicious of knowledge derived from the business context which they regard as transitory and of little long-term value to students. By contrast, lecturers with more business experience, often teaching in areas of the curriculum related to functional specialisms, had a Context-dependent attitude. They argue in favour of responsiveness to the business context and embrace this 'new' knowledge. An analytical framework is presented based on these pedagogic and epistemological dimensions. Drawing on these findings, the thesis concludes that the study of business can be compatible with a higher education based on liberal values. Many business lecturers are committed to a pedagogy based on critical evaluation and context-independence. Moreover, the changing nature of both vocational and higher education also strongly suggests that, in practice, the goals of Business Studies are compatible with those of a liberal higher education.