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Strathclyde Business School Strathclyde Business School

Reflections on 2021

By David Hillier - Posted on 5 January 2022

Executive Dean Professor David Hillier reflects on 2021 and what the Business School, its students, staff and alumni have achieved in a challenging year.

This time last year, countries worldwide were tackling the coronavirus as best they could, with a mixture of lockdowns, travel restrictions and vaccines. It’s hard to imagine that just over two years ago, none of us had heard of Covid19 or were aware of how much our lives would change as a result. Although a degree of normality has returned, we face a rapidly evolving situation, and the Omicron variant has pushed our return to everyday life back a few months. 

I’m pleased to say that what doesn't change at SBS is the excellent work of our staff and students and the fantastic achievements of our alumni community. 

Some in the Strathclyde family would have known Charles Huang from his time undertaking his MBA and Marketing PhD studies – but this year, many more had come to know Charles when he so generously donated £50million to the University. This incredible donation will support the construction of a new building named after Dr Huang in the University’s Technology and Innovation Zone in the heart of the Glasgow City Innovation District. It will also enable the creation of The Stephen Young Institute for International Business, the Stephen Young Global Leaders Scholarship Programme and the Stephen Young Entrepreneurship Awards, all named after Charles’ PhD supervisor. This news was, without doubt, a true highlight of the year for the Business School and the broader University. 

This academic year, we’ve also been delighted to see students back on campus, albeit with safety precautions in place, and increased amounts of face-to-face teaching - with graduations taking place in person. Personally, as Executive Dean of SBS, I can say it was one of the highlights of the year: it was so gratifying to see our students in ceremonial robes ready to receive their well-earned graduation certificates, a testament not only to their learning but their resilience in overcoming every challenge incurred by the ongoing pandemic. 

We’re looking forward to more graduation events in the spring for those who were unable to graduate in person due to restrictions caused by the pandemic. While it may be a little later than we expected, I'm sure it will still be the same enjoyable experience for all concerned. 

2021 has been a year in which we have, as students, staff and alumni, continued to do our best and make the most of any opportunities available despite any difficulties. 

Our year started with the news that we had been named a Pioneering Institution by the RRBM (Responsible Research in Business and Management), which shows we are contributing to the advancement of responsible research. As a socially progressive business school, we were pleased to be recognised in this way and included in the Corporate Knights Better World MBA rankings, which recognise the integration of sustainability in the MBA and the research carried out on sustainability topics by the business school. We were one of the top 5 UK schools in this ranking. 

According to THE, Strathclyde is among the top universities globally whose work contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Strathclyde is positioned globally, up from 70th last year, first in Scotland, and seventh in the UK in the latest Rankings, which measure how 1,115 global higher education institutions are working towards the 17 United Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 


As well as the Corporate Knights ranking, the Business School has been included in a range of rankings this year. All four possible subject areas were ranked in the Complete University Guide 2022. Accounting and Finance achieved 1st position in the UK, Marketing retained 3rd position in the UK and first in Scotland. Economics was 8th (2nd in Scotland). Finally, Business and Management Studies moved up two places and is now ranked 6th in the UK.  

Our MSc in Finance programme was placed again in the annual Financial Times' ranking of the top 55 pre-experience finance programmes. Just 12 schools in the UK were included in the international ranking. Strathclyde moved up in the ranking to 49th position overall. Our Executive MBA was ranked in the annual Financial Times’ top 100 ranking of Executive MBA programmes. Offered via Glasgow and seven international MBA centres, its rank was based on the responses from 2018 graduates of the programme. We are ranked 84th internationally of business schools offering Executive MBAs, which places us in the top 10 UK Executive MBA providers, and the only Scottish provider to be ranked. Strathclyde Business School has been ranked in the top 95 European Business Schools in the latest ranking from the Financial Times, ranking 53rd overall. Strathclyde is one of 19 UK business schools ranked and only 3 in Scotland. 

Away from rankings, I am pleased that our ground-breaking Breaking Barriers programme continued this year, with the fourth cohort of students taking part in this innovative learning experience. The 20 students went on to do applied learning placements with ScottishPower or Scottish Television – we are all so proud of this great programme which enables young people with learning disabilities to attend university, achieve an accredited qualification and gain real work experience. 


Our students and alumni continue to impress. Fourth-year Honours student Adam Dickson won the Marketing Society Star Award for Marketing Student of the Year, and Nicola Craig, also an Honours student, was one of the finalists. The Star Award is an annual one presented to the best Marketing student in Scotland, and we were delighted for both Adam and Nicola. 

We pride ourselves on our students being innovative – MSc Environmental Entrepreneurship in Practice student Louise Thomson is one such student - she helped a global oil and gas firm cut waste by repurposing old personal protective equipment (PPE). With more than 20,000 employees worldwide, TechnipFMC goes through a large amount of PPE, generally sent to landfills at the end of its useful life. As part of a class assignment, Louise worked with the company to identify opportunities to reduce waste. 

Good news too from MSc in Human Resource Management graduate Abel Aboh who made the finals of the British Data Awards in the Data Leader of the Year category.  

Danny Leask, an Economics student, was one of a team of UK and Singapore university students who worked together to win the UKSAEI (UK-Singapore Universities Alliance for Entrepreneurship and Innovation) Climate Change and Sustainability Hackathon. Danny worked with students representing Strathclyde, Glasgow, Cranfield, Nottingham and Coventry in the UK and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore to develop a winning idea to help businesses combat climate change. https://www.sbs.strath.ac.uk/feeds/news.aspx?id=2311  

More success from some of our HRM graduates - a total of seven graduates were shortlisted in two award categories at the HR Network National Awards 2021. Fraser Gillespie, who graduated in 2020 with an MSc in Human Resource Management, was awarded HR Graduate of the Year, with all four finalists graduates of our HRM programmes. Clare Marshall graduated in 2019 with an MSc in HRM, and she was awarded HR Assistant of the Year. Three of the four finalists in that category were also Strathclyde graduates. 


Our academic staff have continued to work on Covid-related research this year, which has provided insights into hybrid working, the impact of Covid on entrepreneurship and how the pandemic has impacted tourism and hospitality. With COP26 coming to Glasgow in November, it’s also been gratifying to see environment-themed work going on across the business school – this is undoubtedly an area that will only grow in importance. Some of that work can be found on our Strathclyde Business School blog

I’m pleased to see cross-faculty research and other academic work linked to external organisations this year. To give a few examples, Graeme McLean, Department of Marketing, has been awarded a KTP project with Adimo. He is working with Billy Wallace and Dr Dmitri Roussinov from Computer and Information Science (CIS) on this two-year project worth £194,988 and aims to make Adimo a globally recognised brand. 

The Fraser of Allander Institute has been awarded £445,055 for a project focused on identifying how paid employment can protect against poverty. The partnership between the Fraser of Allander Institute, Institute for Inspiring Children's Futures, and the Poverty Alliance will work with employers, related public services, and people in poverty to identify and implement meaningful change to reduce the risk of in-work poverty families. 

Close to £4m of funding has been approved for a new ESRC Network Plus called "InterAct" to bring an economic and social science dimension to the £147 million Made Smarter Innovation programme, which will be led by Strathclyde’s Professor Jill MacBryde and Professor Jan Godsell of Loughborough University. 

Meanwhile, Professor Tom Baum, Work, Employment and Organisation Department, has been advising the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviour (SPI-B), a subgroup of SAGE assessing behavioural and sociological drivers of the Covid-19 epidemic. 

Congratulations to Professor Phil Taylor, also of Work, Employment and Organisation, who has been conferred the Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences for the excellence and impact of his work and contributions to the social sciences for public benefit. 

And in some very recent news, I was delighted that a number of academics from the Department of Economics and the Fraser of Allander Institute are involved in a major new £12 million research centre - the Centre for Inclusive Trade policy – which aims to be a centre of excellence for innovative trade policy research and will launch early this year with scholars from economics, law, business management, politics and international relations. The Centre has researchers in all four UK nations, in five disciplines and at all stages of their careers and will allow the FAI to build on its existing expertise on trade theory and analysis with collaborators from across the UK and internationally. 

Executive education 

We are so pleased to see our Executive Education programmes return to face to face teaching. We welcomed the first cohort of 'Help to Grow: Management' in Scotland following an intense few months of curriculum design, content creation and team training. This Government-funded programme has attracted much interest: we’ve already seen the first cohort complete the course, with more already lined up, and we were excited to welcome back our 2019 Growth Advantage Programme participants after an 18-month break.


Our Department of Marketing is marking its 50th anniversary this academic year. Established in 1971, the Department is widely acknowledged as one of the earliest seats of excellence in the Marketing field within the UK and internationally. It is ranked No 1 in Scotland and No 3 in the UK in the 2022 Complete University Guide. 

While this is an exciting anniversary for Marketing, it also entails some sad news - the Department was founded by Professor Michael Baker and the news of his death in August came as a great shock and he was in fact involved in the planning of some of the 50th Anniversary activities. This sad news was closely followed by the passing of Professor Stephen Young, another of our highly esteemed academics from the Department who I mentioned previously as being paid tribute to by Dr Charles Huang with his generous donation. The Marketing Department intends to pay tribute to these great scholars during the anniversary year. 

Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to say a fond farewell to some familiar faces who retired this year – Professor of Management Science Val Belton; Professor of Entrepreneurship Nigel Lockett; MBA Full Time Senior Programme Administrator Margaret English; Career and Professional Development Manager Irene Aitkenhead Taylor and Student Lifecycle Manager Lesley Nixon – we wish all who retired this year or moved on to pastures new all the best for the future!

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