19 September 2006 Christine Mallin
Corporate governance and corporate responsibility have gained a much higher profile in recent years. Christine Mallin of Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, explains the benefits that university learning can bring.
Financial scandals and collapses ranging from Barings Bank, Polly Peck and Coloroll in the early 1990s through to the mega scandals of the early 2000s, including Enron, Royal Ahold, Parmalat and Shell, have continued to ensure that there is a sharp focus on corporate governance issues, especially relating to transparency and disclosure, control and accountability, and appropriate board structure that is capable of preventing such scandals from occurring in the future.
Not surprisingly governments have shown significant interest in ensuring that such collapses do not happen again as these lead to a lack of confidence in financial markets.
Similarly there is increasing emphasis on corporate responsibility and how to effectively manage the risks a company is exposed to. These encompass strategic risks, systems / operational risks, regulatory risks, legal and compliance risks, market risks and reputational risks.
The latter is often seen as being the most important risk, as even a comparatively small event can have a significant impact on a company's reputation and be seen as having fundamental importance by various stakeholder groups.
CORPORATE HIGHER LEARNING
There are opportunities to engage in higher learning in corporate governance and corporate responsibility. Masters' degrees such as the MSc in Corporate Governance and Corporate Responsibility at Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham offer participants the chance to study for an academic qualification and to gain leading-edge knowledge of developments in these two key subjects and related areas.
A sound theoretical basis in the core areas of corporate governance and corporate responsibility is established, and building on this, participants will be exposed to both academic and practitioner research and publications, as well as the relevant regulations and legislation.
Lecturers on the programme are also involved in the 'real world' in a very practical way, for example, as members of international corporate governance committees, or as board members of corporate or not-for-profit bodies.
External speakers are invited to express their views on topical areas, and past speakers at the university have included Mervyn King and Sir Adrian Cadbury whilst Professor Marek Belka, under-secretary general of the United Nations, will be giving a lecture in the Business School in the near future entitled 'Transition to Euroland'.
One advantage of engaging in higher learning is that it offers a golden opportunity to gain access to a range of top-notch speakers, each giving valuable insights into their work.
Higher education programmes also enable participants to network with other members of the programme and learn more from those participants' experiences both in the workplace and from different international and cultural perspectives.
In addition many higher education programmes will have links with regional, national and international organisations.
This year, for example, the MSc Corporate Governance and Corporate Responsibility class were invited as guests of Birmingham Symphony Hall to attend a concert given by 1,000 schoolchildren as part of British Airways' corporate responsibility programme. Networking opportunities existed both before and after the concert to meet with those involved in the organisation of BA's outreach programme.
Another event organised for the MSc students was a visit to London to meet the corporate governance directors at two of the UK's leading fund managers, Hermes and Morley Asset Management, to discuss various issues relating to corporate governance and corporate responsibility.
AN ACADEMIC AND A PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATION
Students graduating with an MSc in Corporate Governance and Corporate Responsibility from Birmingham Business School will now also be awarded the Graduateship of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (GradICSA).
The GradICSA gives candidates full exemption from the professional examinations of the ICSA. Once qualified, chartered secretaries can go on to become chairs, chief executives and non-executive directors, as well as managers and company secretaries.
The collaborative link is a significant benefit to students as they have the added value of full exemption from the professional examinations of a leading international body and a leading edge MSc from a world-class business school - an attractive combination for students and employers alike.
THE VIRTUES OF HIGHER LEARNING
In summary the virtues of higher learning in corporate governance and corporate responsibility are significant:
- Leading-edge coverage of topics related to this area
- Exposure to leading figures from business, the professions and academia
- Multiple networking opportunities between programme participants, and external speakers and visitors
- Involvement with leading organisations in the context of their corporate governance and corporate responsibility policies
- The opportunity to achieve both an academic qualification at postgraduate level and a professional qualification
Finally, the old adage says that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and what better proof than to look at the job prospects of graduates with an MSc in Corporate Governance and Corporate Responsibility.
This year's graduates include Caroline Miller, an Oxford graduate, who previously held the post of fundraising manager for the African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF) UK, and who sought to build on this experience, combining the wider knowledge gained from her MSc degree, to find a position in corporate social responsibility within the commercial sector. She has recently been appointed as Sainsbury plc's community affairs executive.