The UK’s Chartered Association of Business Schools (Chartered ABS) held its inaugural awards for highlighting innovation and excellence in executive education earlier this month. The Chartered ABS Executive Education Committee holds regular symposia for members throughout the year. The most recent event was focused on innovation in executive education practice and was addressed by three thought-leaders from the sector – Nick Shackleton-Jones, the Director of Learning & Performance Innovation at PA Consulting, Des Dearlove, one of the founders of the Thinkers50 and Patrick Hull, the Global Learning Director at Unilever.
The afternoon session saw presentations from eight Chartered ABS business schools and shone a spotlight on the variety of approaches UK schools are offering, and their differing levels of experience and scope. Business schools face a dilemma, providing a dedicated department with faculty that are experienced at facilitating learning with senior executives is a specialist skill and consequently takes dedicated resources which could be put to use in other ways; but supporting, enabling and connecting UK organizations, both profit and non-profit, at all levels of the economy is an important and beneficial service, which has positive feedback loops for both the schools and client organizations.
It was encouraging to see not only the leading UK business school providers in this field, such as Oxford Saïd, Henley and Manchester Alliance bringing entries into the competition, but also new players in the sector such as the new business school at Kings College London, Leicester School of Business (itself recently reborn from a merger of Leicester University’s Economics department and School of Management), and Glasgow University’s Adam Smith School of Business all experimenting and exploring the exec-ed sector and how they can work with alumni and local organizations to develop better performance. Lying between these ends of the spectrum, Cardiff and Sheffield Hallam business schools show-cased how they are working with significant local businesses – law firms and consultants – in win-win engagements for both client and provider, strengthening the ties between academic insight and practice, and engaging the next generation of students in the process.
The winning entry in the awards went to Henley Business School at University of Reading for its sophisticated multi-dimensional program with the British Army to provide a ‘Higher Education Pathway’ to Army officers culminating in BSc, MSc or MSc Exec qualifications in Leadership and Strategic Studies, the Army Higher Education Pathway (AHEP) program. The program designed by Henley in partnership with its parent, the University of Reading to award the degree qualifications, and its School of Politics, Economics and International Relations (SPEIR) for specialist content, as well as an external technology provider, CDS, is available to officer cadets at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and for serving army officers completing the intermediate staff course at the Defence Academy in Shrivenham. Participants continue to participate in AHEP throughout career stage 1, the early years of their military careers, until completion of the program.
AHEP follows an Apprenticeship style approach, as the participants are very much engaged in their full-time military roles throughout the length of the program. For those officers joining AHEP from Sandhurst shortly before starting the program the officer cadet participants graduate to be commissioned officers and leave Sandhurst to join their respective regiments and duties, means that the starting cohorts are quickly fragmented and will find themselves working in different global locations and time-zones. The program of 15 modules therefore needed to be entirely deliverable online in addition to the army face-to-face delivery. The Army security protocols prevented the usual commercial platforms from being used, so a new bespoke, secure learning platform has been developed.
RMA Sandhurst has three intakes per year for its core 44-week Commission Course, so the AHEP program has bi-monthly enrolment for new starters to embark on the modules shortly after completing Sandhurst. This in itself is no mean administrative task.
These varying layers of complexity – the five participating providers, the online delivery, the technology security, and continual enrolment and dispersion of participants shortly after embarking on the program – build a program map of considerable complexity. Nonetheless Henley managed these various strands to successfully enrol the first participants in September 2018, only sixteen months after it was awarded the contract to run the program to the Army.
IEDP Developing Leaders will be publishing a more in-depth case study of Henley Business School's AHEP program later in the year.