Interpreting ‘Business-Facing’: The Role Of The ‘Institutional Elite’
This paper explores the responses of a group of UK higher education institutions (HEIs) to a series of government policies, which were designed to encourage greater university-business collaboration. Set against a backdrop of the knowledge economy and increased marketisation, the authors seek to explain the motivations of the ‘institutional elite,’ (IE) in driving the business-facing agenda in their universities. While there is a surfeit of literature examining the changing business models of manufacturing firms and industries, very little research has been devoted to higher education business models. Informed by global value chain (GVC) frameworks, the authors examine to what extent, if any, relationships exist between the marketisation of higher education (Palfreyman and Tapper, 2014) and specific changes to the shape of institutional value chains (James, 2013). This work was case study driven. It involved in-depth interviews with ten vice-chancellors and two senior members of the OVC (Office of the Vice Chancellor) from the post-1992 segment of higher education. This approach was supplemented by extensive documentary analysis. The novelty of this study is that it explores the views of strategic and influential leaders, (referred to as ‘institutional elite’) operating at local, regional and or national levels. Results include a critique of the extant value chain framework and recommendations for its use in the higher education sector. More specifically, our paper identifies factors that need consideration, by those responsible for engaging with, and interpreting, government policy.