Abstract: Practically Academic: Forming British Business Schools in the 1960s

Mitch Larson


In this paper I show that British management has undergone an incomplete process of professionalization since 1945, demon-strated by the establishment of university-based "business schools" modeled on American examples. Industrial advocates of management education not only hoped to solve economic problems but also strove to raise the status of business within British society. The process is incomplete because true professionalization has not occurred. Earlier pathways to management work were never fully replaced: accountancy and engineering training still supply a sizable number of today's business leaders. In addition, neither government nor business has erected legal barriers to entry or attempted to control access to business education as in other fully professional fields such as medical practice. Firms supported management training initi-atives within the universities because they sought to combine the universities' academic prestige with courses of practical relevance such as those at well-known American business schools such as Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The explosion of business schools and management training provision that has arisen since the mid-1960s demonstrates the success of the "trail-blazing" function of the London and Manchester Business Schools in elevating management's social status.

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