Five Innovative Ways Higher Education Is Developing 21st Century Leaders

Wednesday 09 May 2018
From running African charities to self-employed placement years, these are some of the ways that higher education institutions are shaping the next generation of managers.
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In February 2018, the CMI launched its second annual 21st Century Leaders Report. The aim was to examine how to best prepare new graduates for leadership, in order to ensure the future of skilled management in the UK, and with it to address the productivity gap that is present in performance compared to international competitors.

The research featured insight from 13 education institutions and looked at the evolving priorities of universities and employers in the business world today. These partners are adapting the curriculum and forging collaboration to upskill the next generation. Here’s how.

5 Ways Universities Are Educating Leaders Of The Future


1. Business Schools Are Offering Self-employed Placement Years

‘Entrepreneurship’ was the word on the lips of many educators asked to identify emerging management disciplines, and two thirds of students surveyed in the 21st Century Leaders Report said they were interested in running their own business.

With this in mind, the University of Kent has unveiled a self-employed placement year that gives students the opportunity to spend the third year of a four-year degree programme running their own businesses.

To be eligible, students must complete 12 hours of extra-curricular workshops in which they develop a business idea. This helps identify those whom the opportunity is most valuable for. The students receive weekly coaching from an ‘entrepreneur in residence’ for six months while they set up and run their own businesses, with monthly telephone calls thereafter.

“I’d been working on my business in my own time for a year before I was offered the opportunity to do a self-employed placement year,” says business management undergraduate Rayyan Petkar.

Petkar set up YoungFundr, a crowdfunding platform that enables individuals to support new businesses in 2016. For Petkar, a self-employed work placement was an opportunity to put what he’d learned into practice. “Most of the course content that we’ve learned has helped to run my business,” he explains.

He’s clear on the benefits for employers too – graduates who have run their own businesses have greater confidence and skills: “you learn so much when you have to do everything for yourself.”

2. Business Schools Are Running Charities

What better way to understand the interconnected nature of business and society than to help develop an underprivileged area?

In 2015, Cardiff University Business School committed to teaching business and management skills in the context of wider social improvement and economic development. It called this its Public Value Strategy. “It is our responsibility as a large, successful business school,” says Andrew Henley, professor of entrepreneurship and economics, and director of research, engagement and impact: “It reflects the way leadership and management is going,” says Henley.

In 2016, 250 students studying Market Research as part of their degree programmes worked with 30 local businesses in order to boost trade in the Grangetown region of Cardiff, by developing campaigns to encourage shopping locally.

Outside of the curriculum, students can work with academic staff to enter the social enterprise competition run by not-for-profit organisation, Enactus UK.

Students are currently developing their skills by helping to support agricultural managers in Eritrea, Africa.

3. Business Schools Are Recruiting Artists

Management skills are needed across all disciplines, so Dundee University is allowing graduates from across its subject areas to have access to its management education materials. This includes its subscription to CMI Management Direct information.

To support the business aspirations of students from disciplines such as art and design, 200 students who are not studying the accredited courses will be given access to CMI information and resources.

James Robertson, marketing manager at the school of business, would like to see businesses in all sectors establish a connection with universities: “employers in various innovative fields should work with local universities to offer industry-specific knowledge and placement opportunities.”

4. Business Schools Are Staging Competitions

A competitive edge is essential for business. At Coventry University, a global professional development module will be built into all postgraduate courses. It includes a case study project dedicated to solving the real-life issues of an external organisation. The winning case study is judged by the experts and awarded a prize.

Monica Dinu, who studied an MA in Diplomacy, Law and Global Change at Coventry University says: To work on problem-solving for real business issues has shown me what it takes, and I enjoyed working with students from subjects such as engineering and psychology to see how they’re thinking.”

5. They’re Given Psychological Coaching

Having management skills is one thing: demonstrating them is another. At Anglia Ruskin University, the Lord Ashcroft International Business School invites its students to undertake psychometric testing, so that they are ready for the rigours of graduate recruitment.

Each year it hosts an employability conference including workshops and talks run by successful individuals and organisations: attendance is compulsory for first and second year undergraduate students, and they are given a week off of their standard subject timetable to ensure they have the time and space to focus on core business skills and career development.

Previous workshops have included ‘networking’ and ‘first impressions’ by Brindlesticks Theatre Company; assessment centres by Enterprise plc; global entrepreneurship by Google and work/life balance by The Rising Network.

A core employability module which explores areas including psychometric testing and interview techniques has seen NatWest lend its expertise, while an overarching skills audit is shaped by an employer forum and input from university partners which include local businesses and the likes of Co-operative Group and UPS.