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Business Education in the U.K. Polytechnic Tradition: Uncovering Alternative Approaches through Historical Investigation

Alistair Mutch

Abstract: Historical exploration based on archival sources indicates the subsequently somewhat obscured development of a distinctive approach to business and management education in the United Kingdom. Based in the polytechnics that were created in the 1960s, this approach featured a learner-centred and structured approach to course design and assessment. Innovative developments at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels were conditioned by a system of national monitoring. While often experienced as bureaucratic and intrusive, the practices of visits and committee discussion fostered reflection on teaching and learning. However, a key weakness was a lack of focus on research. When the so-called ‘binary line’ dividing polytechnics from universities was abolished in 1992, the polytechnics were subject to the isomorphic pressures of league tables and accreditation requirements, ones which often privileged the research activities of the universities. The value of a historical approach is in uncovering traditions that have often been obscured by later developments but which offer resources to address contemporary concerns.
Keywords: polytechnics / Tradition / structured / Approaches through Historical / obscured / uncovering / Investigation Historical / developments

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