Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Business Schools, in all countries need more "social" and "ethical" teachings

Editorial from Globe and Mail, June 9, 2011
A Canadian business school took an important step toward a truly global orientation on Thursday in agreeing to operate a campus in India, beginning in the fall of 2013. A huge world market exists for a commodity that Canada has in abundance – quality education – but entering that market in a productive way is tricky. York University’s Schulich School of Business, of Toronto (and soon Hyderabad), has taken an approach that could produce large, intangible benefits.

Those benefits may not be immediately apparent to the naked eye. After all, Canadian universities are not profit-making institutions. Is the expansion to Hyderabad just ego, empire-building? The university makes a credible case that it is no longer enough simply to offer students a chance to learn from international faculty, as Schulich and other Canadian business schools already do. It is important to have a presence abroad, especially in the emerging economies.
Deszo Horvath, Schulich’s dean, put it this way: “The real benefit for Schulich is that we will have a presence, a hub in Asia, the fastest-growing market, and some of the largest economies in the world will be around us. So we will have expertise, knowledge. We will be able to provide students an opportunity to learn about this.”
Schulich expansion sounds very corporate – refreshingly so. “Why do corporations go abroad? To make a stronger base at home. To create a larger market. Reduce risk. If North America is declining in demand, we have to be in this part of the world.” Dean Horvath also says Canadian companies are too dependent on the United States and not willing enough to venture out to China and India because “Canadian executives have not been trained to deal with a global market.”
Mamdouh Shoukri, York’s president, suggests another benefit; the graduates of Schulich’s Hyderabad campus (drawn not only from India but from around the world) will spread Canada’s influence far and wide.
With a young population and a bottomless appetite for educated managers, India needs what Canada has. In return, an Indian developer gives Schulich a $1-a-year, 20-year lease on a new, $25-million campus, and India offers itself as a classroom. A good deal for everyone.
Putting a business school in India, as part of the globalization of York University, makes sense to those committed to its execution. However, what these "educators" are really trying to do is to build the reputation of York among its potential donors, including the corporate elite of both countries. Everyone knows that universities have morphed into "trade-schools" offering job-skills to incipient professionals. Universities compete as vigorously, albeit with considerable sophistication and elan, for corporate dollars whenever and wherever they can find them.
Business schools, especially, offer training in "how to operate a system" for those seeking entry into the corporate ladder, but certainly not creative, unconventional, or thought challenging to the status quo.
In fact, with the possible minor variance of trying to nudge Canadian corporate executives into the new world markets, by planting a faculty and student body in India, York garners platinum editorials from Canada's corporate newspaper. Will that enhance donations at home? Probably. Will that generate enhanced political connections within Canada? Most likely. Will it generate graduating classes willing and equipped, through their learning at either campus of Shulich, to challenge their corporate masters, with innovative thinking, with new theories of management and integration of social ethics with corporate pursuit of profit? Not likely.
The world of business, led by the U.S. example, is driven by the pursuit of personal and organizational profit. And, within limits, that pursuit has some social benefit.
However, it is the continual raising the ceiling of those limits, to permit excessive personal ambition and excessive organizational greed that generates both a cynical push-back from many in the non-profit sector, whose very survival depends on the largesse of those corporate cheque writers, and a string of governments-in-bed-with their corporate bankers that disturbs.
Where are the business educators who are promoting public financing of democratic elections?
Where are the business educators who are advocating more public funding for job creation and more credit released for job creation?
Where are the business educators who see a mutual benefit, both short and long term, of business generating jobs, incomes and benefits for people as an equally valid and even more balanced perspective to endow in their student learners than a fully sanctioned, unbridled and even "unschooled" support for pursuit of profit at all costs.
Until we find those business educators in the majority in all our business schools, we will continue to struggle with resistance to regulation for business, and with a kind of incest between the business moguls and the political class, who also depend far too much of their bankers for their survival. Hence the continuing and growing sycophancy of politicians in many countries.

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