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“What we learn today is how we behave tomorrow”: a study on students' perceptions of ethics in management education

Fernanda Duarte (Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney, Penrith South DC, Australia.)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




The purpose of this paper is to investigate students’ perceptions of studying ethics in a business management degree.


The method used is qualitative design with some quantitative elements. Data were collected through an anonymous survey with 119 students from a management subject, and analysed in the light of deontological and theological theories of ethics.


A large majority of the students surveyed (95 percent) believed that the study of ethics in management is important, and that they had personally benefited from studying ethics in the subject surveyed (84 percent). Four major thematic patterns emerged in the responses: a teleological view of ethics; a “hybrid” view of ethics; a link between ethical behaviour and leadership; and a gap between the ideal and practice of ethics.

Research limitations/implications

The study had a small sample and referred only to one subject. Further studies should be done with larger samples, comparing different cohorts of students, or students at different stages of a degree.

Practical implications

The study draws attention to issues that emerge from the teaching of ethics in management, in particular the need for sustained efforts to foster critical thinking and reflexivity among management students.


The paper is based on an original study that addresses the current gap in studies investigating management students’ attitudes to studying ethics. It is particularly valuable for ethics teachers.



Duarte, F. (2008), "“What we learn today is how we behave tomorrow”: a study on students' perceptions of ethics in management education", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 4 No. 1/2, pp. 120-128.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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