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Changing strategic direction for executive development in the public sector: Opportunities for top business schools?

Roulla Hagen (Durham Business School, Durham University, Durham, UK)
Joyce Liddle (Nottingham Policy Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 5 June 2007




The purpose of this research is to examine the largely ignored executive development needs of the reformed twenty‐first century public sector by executive education providers in business schools.


The paper is predominantly conceptual exploring the current debates on the effectiveness of public sector management and the requirements for more relevant management and executive education through a literature review. The antecedents of the current position are explored. Hypotheses are developed about the provision of executive education for the public sector within business schools. In the absence of previous investigations in this field, a preliminary survey is conducted employing the Financial Times top 60 ranked executive education, 2006, to test the hypothesis and underpin more in‐depth research.


The findings demonstrate that almost two‐thirds of the sample did not provide any executive education to the public sector, and most of the provision on offer was for specialised silos within the sector, or borrowed from existing private sector programmes. There was no support found from the sample for public sector new network governance or leadership challenges discussed in the paper. Findings also supported the view that there is a shortage of evidence‐based research for many of the executive programmes that are being offered.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is the first to explore the status of the field under investigation and provide a conceptual framework; whilst the preliminary empirical research has been an initial surface fact‐finding study to establish the level and size of the problem, this has been achieved. This paper will now underpin a rigorous empirical research programme to explore the subject matter in greater detail.

Practical implications

The findings support the hypothesis that executive education providers within business schools are failing to address the management development needs of senior executives in the public sector. The paper concludes that there are huge opportunities being missed by business schools both by their management faculty, to investigate and understand the problems of the sector, and by their executive education centres to co‐design and deliver programmes to assist the sector to transform and develop effectively to meet the challenges posed by a more globalized, complex, networked world. The paper invites them to engage.


This paper investigates a subject that has been identified by the Academy of Management as important. It requires further research but has hitherto not received much attention from the research community.



Hagen, R. and Liddle, J. (2007), "Changing strategic direction for executive development in the public sector: Opportunities for top business schools?", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 325-340.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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