Today we get the great opportunity to get a great insight into the business world from a leading academic, Professor Chris Cooper who is currently the Dean of Oxford Brookes University’s Business School.

Professor Coopers speciality is with Travel and Tourism where he was previously Professor and Head of the School of Tourism at the University of Queensland, Australia. He is a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization Leadership Forum and Panel of Experts and he is also an Honorary Professor at three Chinese universities.

Picture of Professor Chris Cooper

What non-academic skills do you believe are important for young entrepreneurs in today’s economy?
I believe that generic skills such as numeracy and communication are essential, as is an awareness of the wider world of business given that we are in an age of globalization. Of course, personal skills and competencies such as influencing skills, empathy for others, cultural and self-awareness is also critical. These can be incorporated into business programmers through smart ways of assessing programmes and having a very clear view as to the type of students business schools are looking to develop.

How important do you believe it is for young entrepreneurs to have a tertiary academic qualification such as a degree?
These days it is more important than ever given the competitive nature of the market place. It is not so much that the tertiary academic qualification provides a certificate but more that it establishes a disciplined way of thinking and framing the world. It also opens the mind to innovation and creativity.

Do you believe small businesses have a greater or lesser chance of success than five years ago?
Difficult to say given the increasingly short life span of new businesses and new products.  Given the current economic environment I am inclined to be pessimistic and say that the chances of success are less.

How do you see business schools changing during the next five to ten years?
This is a very big question.  They will differentiate into those that are research intensive and generating knowledge, and those that are more practical in their approach to delivering the future workforce for the business and public sector. What is clear is that the curriculum will change to incorporate more sustainability, ethics and environmental concerns, as espoused by the UN’s PRME directive. I also think that the role of technology will transform how schools deliver their programmers and interact with their students.

What do you have to say about Lord Alan Sugar’s recent comment regarding university education “…not required to be successful in business”?
Same comment as above!

Many working within the employment sector say today’s graduates don’t have the ‘soft skills’ necessary to achieve in the real world – what’s your opinion on their view?
I agree and as I mention above we need to be smart in how we develop these and assess them within academic business school programmes.

In a diminishing economy, do you believe postgraduate business degrees are still as important as they once were?
I think they will need to change in terms of how they are delivered and their focus.  You only have to look at Asia and Australia to see that their popularity is greater than it used to be. Here, I feel that Europe is lagging behind and that we need to be innovative in our approach to graduate business programmes.

How do you see new types of business degrees such as the ‘Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)’ changing?
I am not sure how useful the DBA is in the current environment and traditional degrees such as the MBA are beginning to change, albeit slowly.  What I think we will see in the future is more business education linked to economic sectors such as say, education and health. I would also like to see the MBA linked to specialist masters programmers to truly develop the knowledge economy, meaning you could graduate with a specialist knowledge of say finance as well as the management leadership needed from the MBA.