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Here's to 2021...

By David Hillier - Posted on 5 January 2021

Executive Dean Professor David Hillier takes his annual look back at the achievements of the past year and looks forward to what the new one will bring.

Twelve months ago, few of us were aware of a novel coronavirus and little did we know how it would impact upon the world in such a short period of time. None of us could have foreseen exactly how much our day to day lives would change; how we would work from home, deal with moving existing programmes online and start new courses in the same way. Lessons, social events, graduations all moved online and, while this has been carried out in an overall successful way with great credit to those involved for adapting so well to these new methods, we hope it won’t be too long before we are back to our normal ways of operating – there is nothing quite like working and studying in a face-to-face setting. 

Naturally, life has carried on despite Covid and I wish to take the opportunity to reflect on the good things of 2020 – I hope you will enjoy reading about some of our successes and perhaps take time to think about your own successes and positive experiences in 2020.

Our research and KE

Our staff are the greatest thing about Strathclyde Business School, and all have risen to the challenges Covid has imposed on us. We have been coping with new ways of working and supporting our students. Our academic staff have also been involved in many aspects of the Covid challenge in terms of research and consultancy. For instance, Professor Phil Taylor carried out important research into call centre staff and their working conditions during the pandemic on behalf of STUC.

The Department of Management Science has been involved in health-related research and consultancy, which has had many direct impacts on hospital preparedness for Covid patients, mental health, and care home safety. Professor Alec Morton led one project into the impact of the pandemic response upon public mental health, which was one of four Strathclyde projects to be awarded funding by the Scottish Government.

Professor Jill McBryde is leading a team looking at manufacturing and Covid after successfully securing funding from UKRI to understand the impact that Covid has had on UK manufacturing and to identify priorities for renewal through innovation.

Our Fraser of Allander Institute (FAI) has been analysing the impact of Covid on the economy throughout the pandemic.

These are just a few examples of work being done this year - I chose to highlight some of the Covid-related research work we have undertaken but there is plenty more non-Covid research going on across the business school – as one example, the Fraser of Allander Institute is working on a year-long research project examining the relationship between Scottish adults with learning disabilities and the economic outcomes for their families. Our Scottish Centre for Employment Research (SCER) and FAI are hosting the Productivity of Outcomes of Workplace Practice, Engagement & Learning (PrOPEL) Hub. Launched in June, the Hub brings together leading academics from seven institutions across the UK as well as the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) to explore workplace practices that deliver high-quality, engaging work and enhance business performance and productivity.

Our students

Our students have continued to achieve this year despite the limitations and difficulties they have faced.

For the third successive year, a team of Strathclyde Marketing students won a nationwide competition to recognise and reward the marketing talent of the future. CIM The Pitch sees students from leading universities compete to respond to a live client brief in a bid to win the title of 'Marketer of the Future'. Thomas Cooper and Adam Dickson are the two students who this year won the award, making it the treble for Strathclyde Business School – and true recognition of the quality of our Marketing teaching. MSc Data Analytics student Scott Dickie was runner up in the OR Society's May Hicks Award 2020. He received a cheque for £250 and a certificate, and - another point to highlight - it is now the fifth time in recent years that a Strathclyde student has been a prize-winner in the May Hicks Award – quite an achievement for our Management Science students.

Full time MBA student Florence Adu was named in the top global 100 women in mining by Women in Mining UK. This is fantastic recognition for Florence who has proven herself in a male-dominated industry and also taken time to ‘pay back’ into the community. Well done to these students and the rest of our student community who have worked hard and achieved much despite the circumstances they have experienced.

Our programmes

Breaking Barriers has continued throughout the pandemic and I’m pleased to say was named winner in the Spotlight category of the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

We were delighted to partner with the Institute of Ecommerce to deliver the first Ecommerce course of its kind in the UK, targeted at senior ecommerce managers with the first session taking place back in January. Our partners Universidad Pontificia Comillas delivered the Corporate Governance module for the Iberdrola MBA in Global Energy Industry. This module was taught to students both in person and online. This was a brilliant example of technology allowing us to give our students a ‘realistic’ learning experience, whilst a majority of this cohort are based at home in different countries.

Our programmes performed well in various rankings throughout the year. In the Financial Times, our MSc in Finance was ranked in the top 55 pre-experience finance programmes; our Executive MBA was ranked in the FT’s top 100 ranking of Executive MBA programmes; and we were ranked in the FT’s ranking of the top 90 European business schools.

Our MBA was also ranked in the latest Economist Which MBA? Executive Education ranking for 2020, which ranks the top 70 Executive MBA programmes around the world.

The Complete University Guide listed Marketing, Accounting & Finance, Economics, and Business & Management Studies in their top 10 subject tables, while Economics, Business Studies, and Accounting & Finance were highly ranked in the Sunday Times Good University Guide, with Accounting & Finance being ranked top in the UK.

In The Guardian University Guide, Strathclyde was ranked 15th overall, rising 36 places from last year, and The Guardian also ranked three SBS subjects – Economics, Accounting & Finance and Business, Management & Marketing - within the UK top ten.

We celebrated 25 years of offering our prestigious MBA programme in the UAE this year. Alongside our 25 years milestone, what makes this year even more noteworthy is that we have consolidated and relocated our UAE operations, formerly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, to new premises at Dubai Knowledge Park, Dubai's premier hub for Masters and Executive Education, and have recruited two new members of staff locally to support our students there.


Events have still been able to take place virtually. We were delighted that we could move online for some of our events, particularly our Leading Forward seminar series with RBS where Professor Lena Wilson, CBE, expertly chaired the conversations with our excellent speakers. We welcomed back our first four Leading Forward speakers - Lena Wilson, Mary Jo Jacobi, Jacqui Ferguson and Deirdre Michie – to revisit their original topics in light of the pandemic situation, and we were lucky enough to welcome Alison Rose, CEO of the NatWest Group, and Robin Watson, CBE, Wood Group plc Chief Executive, for two further excellent webinars. The fact these took place virtually meant we could have a large and truly international audience for what were hugely interesting and insightful talks.

Guest lectures and seminars continued across the business school in the form of webinars and online forums. While these have had to be done out of necessity, it’s been an invaluable chance to capitalise on the technology available to us to make these sorts of events accessible to more people – and allow more people to take up guest lecture invites too.

We know many of us have a bit of ‘Zoom fatigue’ but our virtual connections have truly been a saving grace this year. We’re now looking forward to 2021 – and I do hope it will be a year to truly ‘look forward to’ for all of us.

I can only cover so much of what we’ve done this year – please do have a look at our SBS web news page for more, and also keep an eye on our SBS blog – our students, staff and alumni have all contributed excellent blog posts this year – well worth a bit of time. Here’s to a more settled and ‘normal' 2021.

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