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The AFR talks to new Business School Dean, Professor Geoffrey Garrett

09 May 2012

In an Australian Financial Review (AFR) Education feature published on Monday 7th May, the new Dean of the University of Sydney Business School, Professor Geoffrey Garrett, said that he relished the idea of re-framing the School’s agenda and widening its role.

Professor Garrett took up his new position last month aware that the Business School lacked two traditional offerings, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) course and an executive education program.

Professor Garrett, who remains the CEO of the United States Studies Centre, admitted that the task ahead would be a challenging one.

“I always like challenges,” he told the AFR. “But challenges are even better when you think the opportunities outstrip the challenges and I think that’s the environment here.”

The School launched a Global Executive MBA (EMBA) in June 2010 and earlier this year announced an MBA, which will be delivered part-time over three years, will be launched in 2013.

Despite the competition in the MBA arena, Professor Garrett believes there is room for a newcomer.

“If you look at the MBA marketplace at the moment, absolutely it’s incredibly competitive, and the other thing is there is a lot of dissatisfaction out there, the programs look a bit ossified – they’ve been around for a long time,” he told the AFR.

“When we think about an MBA it’s a blank sheet of paper,” Professor Garrett added. “I hope that gives us the freedom to be a little bit more creative.”

The executive education market, he conceded, may be tougher to crack.

Professor Garrett told the AFR that the Business School was “thinking very hard” about executive education.

He is quoted as saying that organisations are increasingly demanding programs that are customised to their own needs and are restricted to their own staff.

The Business School, in its present form, was born in 2011 when Economics, the Centre for International Security Studies and the Graduate School of Government, previously all in the Faculty of Economics and Business, were moved to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

In order to become a contemporary business school, Sydney must now “rethink, adapt and update” its teaching, research and business engagement. For example, he said that teaching must cover more than just technical competencies and include critical thinking, collaboration, communication and leadership.

Research, Professor Garrett told the AFR, has to be relevant to the business community, inform public policy and professionalise the not-for-profit sector. The School, he said could play an important role in research into such things as non-communicable disease like obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes; China; and sustainability.

Professor Garrett said that the third issue, business engagement, needed to be more than just a residual activity but “the core” of the School’s identity.

“The first thing I have to do is commit as dean to the notion that our academics are not traditional university-style teaching and research academics, they’re teaching and research academics who must be engaged in the broader community,” he told the AFR.

“So, I think that message from the dean’s office is a very important thing. We have to create opportunities and incentives for our academics to be more engaged.”

Professor Garrett wants more students placed in professional environments during their studies and more inspiring business leaders on the campus and his first port of call, according to the AFR, will be the pool of distinguished former students.

“The greatest resource we have is the quality and size of the alumni base and certainly working with our alumni on business engagement is absolutely one of my highest priorities,” he said.

Alumni of the 100 year old School include the Reserve Bank Governor, Glenn Stevens, chairman of the Australian Prudential Regulatory Authority, John Laker, deputy chair of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Belinda Gibson, and the head of Infrastructure NSW and former State Premier, Nick Greiner.