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Delivering MBA courses – the case of Warwick Business School

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Photo: Professor Howard Thomas.Howard Thomas is internationally recognized as a leading expert in the field of strategic management, with over 30 books and 200 articles to his name. He is also dean of Warwick Business School (WBS), recently nominated as one of the top ten European Business Schools. He talks to Margaret Adolphus about WBS, management education, the responsibility of business schools in the current financial crisis, and his role as consulting editor of Emerald's recently launched Journal of Strategy and Management.


When Howard Thomas arrived as dean of Warwick Business School in 2000, it was a very different environment; the magnificent facility seen in the photograph (Figure 1. Warwick Business School) did not exist and is a result over UK£20 million worth of investment. Warwick Business School has earned an impressive international reputation despite the fact that it was only founded in 1967, just a year after the University of Warwick, the extensive campus which is situated west of Coventry in the heart of England. Now, in 2008, it is housed in an impressive structure of glass, brick and concrete that manages to appear both functional and welcoming. There are also a number of pieces of artwork on loan from the University’s art collection, including one striking image of a deconstructed Britain, where familiar places are re-sited resulting in an unsettling version of the familiar (is this a metaphor for business post credit crunch)?

Photo: Figure 1. Warwick Business School.

Figure 1. Warwick Business School

It is clearly a building designed around the user, with a number of different learning and social spaces. Lecture theatres are all equipped with data projectors and large projection screens, a PC, DVD, visualizers and white boards, and fitted with chairlifts for disabled access and hearing loops (see Figure 2). There are a number of smaller break-out rooms close by, following the teaching style which is based on periods of lecture followed by discussion and project work, as well as an information technology (IT) suite and student lounge area with banks of PCs, plasma TVs and meeting spaces. The latter area acts as a social space and also a space for group work outside of normal classroom activities (see Figure 3).

Photo: Figure 2. A WBS lecture theatre.

Figure 2. A WBS lecture theatre


Photo: Figure 3. The IT suite at WBS.

Figure 3. The IT suite at WBS

At the moment, the School houses only graduate students (Master of Business Administration (MBA) students have their own discrete area, where there are refreshments and they can interact, discuss projects or simply relax), but in the next phase of the building, due to be completed in 2011 which represents a further £20 million investment, undergraduates will have their own learning grid (an environment equipped with a variety of information and communications technology (ICT), reference information and study spaces), tutorial rooms and social spaces. Although there are no plans to augment the large lecture theatres provided by the University to accommodate this group, there will be smaller, flatter lecture rooms for postgraduates, where people sit around circular tables, and so can alternate between lecture and group work.