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Revitalising the enterprise university post-COVID 19: a focus on business schools

Brendan O'Connell (School of Accounting, Information Systems and Supply Chain, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Meredith Tharapos (School of Accounting, Information Systems and Supply Chain, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)
Paul De Lange (Tasmanian School of Business and Economics, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia)
Nicola Beatson (Otago Business School, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 16 March 2022

Issue publication date: 7 February 2023

395

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to provide a polemic on the evolution of universities and business schools over the past two decades. During this period, universities have increasingly adopted a self-interested stance using business-like practices and behaviours to justify their transformation. The authors provide recommendations aimed at enhancing universities’ contributions and relevance to society, increasing their sustainability broadly defined and better positioning them to help solve wicked problems in a post-COVID-19 world.

Design/methodology/approach

This polemic analyses prior literature relating to the evolution of universities and uses this to generate a framework for ways forward for their improvement.

Findings

The authors argue that the evolution of universities into entities with missions and operations designed to mimic business and commercial imperatives has yielded undesirable outcomes including the muddling of the core mission of universities, alienation of key stakeholders and an excessive focus on income growth. Business schools face a tension between forging their own, unique identities and simultaneously striving to meet university university objectives. We term this “the Business School identity paradox”. The authors contend that the way forward requires senior management to re-discover the essence of what it means to be a university, re-establish collegial decision-making within universities that includes built-in feedback loops and a fundamental emphasis on developing graduates with an enlightened perspective that goes beyond technical skills.

Originality/value

This paper is novel in that it analyses the evolution of the “Enterprise University” some 20 years after this term was first coined and in a radically changed environment following the COVID-19 pandemic. This analysis is also forward-looking as the authors re-imagine universities and business schools by identifying opportunities for renewal and improvement in their focus and societal impact. The authors also develop a schema that identifies major influences on universities and business schools, the impact of COVID-19 and strategies for them post-COVID-19.

Keywords

Citation

O'Connell, B., Tharapos, M., De Lange, P. and Beatson, N. (2023), "Revitalising the enterprise university post-COVID 19: a focus on business schools", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 31 No. 1, pp. 141-166. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-06-2021-1332

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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