How can universities integrate purposeful business into teaching and the student experience?
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Tim Chapman, Director of Infrastructure Design, ARUP, expressed his support for the report saying, "I was excited when I saw the words "purposeful" and "business" because they don't appear together very often. When they do, it's about making money. I think that is depressing. That is where we all come from. Businesses are expected to make money, you expect them to be cynical and to have no higher motive."
He added that "we live in a time of massive dislocation – covid and interrelated crises – climate change, biodiversity – the opportunity is not just to make money. It is to do good." He further added that "our biggest stakeholder is our people, our employees, and we have to care for our people."
Professor Jonathan Grant, Professor Public Policy at the Policy Institute, King's College London stated that "If we put purpose at the core, it affects everything and how you do it".
He raised the question on "what do we need to do to shift the dial so universities become an integral part of society? Fundamentally put purpose at your core – that will infect how you educate students, your research cultures and how you operate your business."
He went on to add "the agenda set out in the [Future of the Corporation programme], and those principles are wholly applicable to universities."
Bruno Roche, Founder & Executive Director, Economics of Mutuality, discussed that "we should put purpose at the centre of university. To quote Colin Mayer, he said that the purpose of business is not to maximize profits. The purpose of business is to develop profitable solutions and scalable solutions to the problems of people on the planet, not profiting from creating problems. I think if we just take this very simple definition and make it the core of our business, we would trigger a system change. Any system change starts with education. It starts with understanding that the purpose of business -- is about maximizing profits. It is dysfunctional and even destructive. So I hope with The British Academy [report], there will be a wake-up call from business course leaders to trigger a system change in the way business is taught."
Arshiya Sawhney, Economics Undergraduate Student, University College London, stated that for her, "the most convincing argument is most students who are graduating will join a business or start their own – you become part of an ecosystem, and this is something educators need to realize today and attempt to weave into our student experience at universities."
She added that "We want to be part of an environment or corporate culture that sees the bigger picture".
Jo Swinson, Director, Partners for a New Economy, stated that she thought that "the way we teach economics in university is out-dated" She expanded on her point, saying, "universities have to teach people how to question – not to accept the way we are used to business operating.
She added that the "short term shareholder primacy model is relatively recent. We have learned to accept it, but we have to challenge it – universities ought to be at the forefront of that."
She also mentioned that "we can not go into this with dogmatic approaches that may or may not have worked in the past and certainly will not work in the future".
Dr Molly Morgan Jones, Director of Policy, The British Academy, who moderated the session, raised vital questions about the role of universities in our society. She explored issues such as "whether the educational purpose is their only purpose? What does it mean to educate in the broader sense?
Moreover, do we need to think about the wider role that universities have and how this relates to the growing discussion about the value of higher education in society today?"
Moderator: Dr Molly Morgan Jones
Director of Policy, The British Academy
Director of Infrastructure Design, ARUP
Professor Jonathan Grant
Professor Public Policy at the Policy Institute, King’s College London
Founder & Executive Director, Economics of Mutuality
Economics Undergraduate Student, University College London
Director, Partners for a New Economy