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Message from Morsing The Role of Business School Education for Societal Inequalities
05 April, 2022 New York, United States

The Role of Business School Education for Societal Inequalities

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

Dear Friends of PRME,

Most of us grew up learning how education is positively associated with enhanced individual opportunities, societal betterment, and social mobility. Parents will spend all their savings giving their children access to good schools and higher education at universities or business schools. And students will work hard, as they know that talent and hard work is likely to advance their prospect in life. Government supported higher education is built on the idea that societal prosperity is progressed by investment in university access for the population. Higher education is a central dimension of the idea of the “rhetoric of rising” and a way to a better life (Sandel, 2020).

A higher education degree is proven to make it more likely to find employment, earn a higher salary, and obtain health insurance. We also know that educated social circles are more likely to influence each other in fostering healthy personal and intellectual growth and exposing each other to a variety of cultures, skills and experiences. Also, a degree from a higher education institution makes it more likely that a person can provide good understanding and critical thinking skills when approaching problem-solving than a person lacking formal learning could.

In emerging economies, an education is furthermore shown to have life-improving and even life-saving impacts. Studies show how education can contribute to protect children from trafficking and child marriage -- as education can help them understand their rights --and how education in a community serves to reduce violence and impacts individuals to make better choices for their own health and community well-being. Also, at a community scale, an educated population is more likely to develop the economy, generating jobs and communal welfare.

In the global context of increasing inequalities, the role of higher education has become even more critical as a leverage to progress social mobility. Universities, and in particular business schools, have experienced a new call for self-reflection as the gap between rich and poor is increasing and as the world witnesses widening racial, gender and socio-economic gaps. However, recent research has pointed to how higher education is not always a force for social mobility and a decrease in social inequalities but in fact also serves to promote the opposite: reinforcing social inequalities. Studies show how local and global decision-makers, educated at universities, also contribute to normalising and reinforcing societal inequalities, and how these decision-makers often come from privileged backgrounds (Bapuji, Patel, Ertug & Allen, 2020). In the current context of decolonising and Black Lives Matter movements, new challenging questions are raised to the role of higher education practices to transform such inequalities. In fact, a new critique is raised if higher education is in fact a part of the problem rather than the solution… asking to what extent we are reconfirming such inequalities rather than reducing them.

As higher education is considered a space that serves to advance social mobility, and as a crucial institution for alleviating inequalities, so far, only little critical attention has been given to the role of the business school in transforming or upholding such inequalities.

With a team of colleagues, I am serving as guest editor at the Academy of Management Learning & Education (AMLE) on a Special Issue on ‘Addressing Socioeconomic Inequalities through Management Education and Learning’ where we invite colleagues to submit their (your) work (submission deadline is 31 December 2022) related to our sector’s self-reflection on how we contribute to reduce or advance socio-economic inequalities in the business school. I hope to see a lot of exciting research on this important agenda.

Warm regards,

Mette Morsing

Reference:

AMLE Call for Papers, Special Issue ‘Addressing Socioeconomic Inequalities through Management Education and Learning’ (https://aom.org/events/event-d...)

Bapuji, H., Patel, C., Ertug, C., and Allen, D. 2020. Corona crisis and inequality: Why management research needs a societal turn. Journal of Management, 46:1205-22.

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