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UOA 36 - Business and Management Studies

University of Abertay Dundee

RA5a: Research environment and esteem


Research in Business and Management Studies at the Dundee Business School (DBS) encompasses business economics, marketing, operations management, public sector management, human resource management and tourism development. Since RAE 2001, the School has gone through significant structural changes aimed at prioritising research activities, rationalising resources and focusing on projects relevant to the needs of commerce, industry and public bodies, consistent with the University’s strategic direction. During this period, a necessary turnover of staff has provided the opportunity to bring in new staff and start to build research capacity. These changes have provided the opportunity to develop new research areas and to reposition the School as a leading provider of business and management research and teaching. During the assessment period, as explained in more detail below, the department has:

  • maintained a core of research active staff who conduct theoretical, conceptual, applied and empirically-based research;
  • established a thematically focused research environment and research support mechanisms targeted at enabling established and new researchers to work within and across those themes and progress their individual profiles;
  • developed a staffing policy to recruit and retain staff with demonstrated research potential, as well as introducing mechanisms to support long-standing non-research-active staff in becoming research active;
  • expanded the scope of the regionally focused Tayside Economic Research Centre (TERC) by establishing the Scottish Economic Research (SER) Centre to conduct detailed analyses of Scottish and regional economic and labour market issues, informing economic policy and decision makers;
  • managed an international cohort of research students who have conducted doctoral and masters’ level research to successful completion;
  • developed research-engagement through research seminars (6-8/year) for internal and external speakers;
  • organised an annual week long seminar (since 2005) on ‘Public Sector Management Reform in Developing Countries’ for public sector managers from various countries, sponsored by the Foreign Office and the British Council, in collaboration with the University of Bradford;
  • designed, developed and led delivery of six annual management development programmes for African (latterly Commonwealth) Vice Chancellors to develop senior management capacity in managing change in HE;
  • organised public master classes in which senior management scholars and business leaders presented their experiences of, and approaches to, leadership, in a variety of contexts. Speakers have included Professors C.K. Prahalad (Business Strategy), Ralph Stacey (Business Strategy), Robert Chia (Management Learning), Gordon Hewitt (Management Strategy), Tony Wells (Health Management), and Mervyn King (Monetary Policy) among many others.


Research Structure

DBS is organised in three interdisciplinary divisions (Business Analysis and Systems; International Business and Communications; and Law and Management) within which teaching, and scholarly and research activities are organised within the following cognate subject groups: Accounting and Finance; Management; Marketing; Economics; Tourism; Law, Information Systems; Languages and Culture; and Statistics and Operations Management. The operational allocation of resources and management of School activity is conducted by the School Management Group (SMG), comprising the Head of School, Division Leaders, Director of Academic Programmes, Director of Research, Collaborative Provision Coordinator, and the Recruitment Administrator. The strategic management of the School is the responsibility of the School Executive Board, which includes SMG members and additional representatives from all Divisions, committees and activity areas across the School. The Director of Research chairs the School Research and Consultancy Committee, which supports and oversees the School’s research and consultancy activities, reports to the School Executive Board, and oversees the School Ethics Committee.

The School’s research activity and development are informed by a consistent commitment to the needs of commerce, industry and public bodies. This research is applied, practice-based and policy-oriented. The applied research by Jack, Romilly and Siler has a strong quantitative element using econometric, mathematical and statistical techniques to develop models that can be applied to management decision-making. Policy-oriented research of relevance to national and international policy-makers includes: employment practices and organisational change in the public sector (Branine, Hotho); the implications of migrant labour on the Scottish economy (McGregor); youth vocational training in Scotland (Turner); technology transfer in Scotland and foreign direct investment in China (Siler); the effects of economic reforms on employment policies and practice in Algeria and China (Branine); human resource management strategies of multinational companies from emerging economies, operating in the UK (Chang); and the development of the tourism industry in post-communist transitional economies (Worthington). Practice-based research has focused on relationship marketing (Turner) and the enhancement of management practice through management research (Hotho).

The staff returned in this submission work across three interdisciplinary themes. These are:

Economic Development

This theme includes regional and national economic and labour market research (McGregor), productivity and R&D of foreign owned subsidiaries in the UK (Siler), transport and environmental economics (Romilly) and economic development and management in emerging and transitional economies (Branine, Chang, Siler, Worthington).

McGregor, as Director of SER, has undertaken detailed analyses of Scottish and regional economic and labour market issues. Geographically, the focus of activity has been on eastern Scotland with long-term research contracts with public sector consortia in Tayside and Edinburgh & Lothian. These contracts and other research income secured by SER amount to almost £1 million over the assessment period. This research, designed to provide clients with new knowledge and understanding of the business and economic environment, resulted in a range of reports, and a series of over twenty detailed sector/issue-based studies. These include analysis of: the provision of English language support in Scotland (NM1); the migrant worker population in Tayside (NM2); a detailed analysis of construction sector skills and labour market issues (NM3); and evaluation of e-business adoption and utilisation in Perth & Kinross (NM4). All SER reports have been used to inform policy development at the national or regional level. The success of SER represents a powerful basis for developing economic and business research, consultancy and commercial activity across Scotland.

Siler’s empirical research (PS1), using a data set of 14,233 firms to examine the influence of organisation, industry and country specific factors on the productivity performance of UK and foreign-owned firms in UK manufacturing, won the prize for the best paper at the 30th Annual Conference of the UK Chapter of the Academy of International Business. This research shows that the relative performance of foreign subsidiaries is jointly determined by home and host country conditions and that multinationals of different origins have distinct sources of productivity advantages. Siler also showed (PS2) that the labour productivity growth of Scottish subsidiaries was positively linked to the R&D activity of their US parents; this study has wider policy implications with respect to the potential technology transfer benefits of FDI projects for the development of the UK economy.

Romilly’s work on evaluating road building schemes (PR1,2) is of direct relevance to the business sector and policy makers, and provides important recommendations for transport investment appraisal, especially where transport infrastructure projects are likely to generate significant new traffic. Importantly, the paper on road capacity (PR2) develops a new approach to the estimation of costs and benefits in project evaluation for a new road that will quickly fill to capacity with extra traffic. This research contributes to the improvement of transport management in the UK and other countries with similar transport problems, and provides cost-effective evaluations that would reduce traffic problems, enhance economic growth and improve social well being.

Additionally, Romilly's research on the implications of global temperature rises (PR3,4) used economic models to develop alternative ways of forecasting global and regional temperature changes. He developed a new approach to the analysis of climate change risk that can be used by risk analysts in the insurance and reinsurance markets to forecast temperature changes. Given the increasing importance of pricing catastrophe risk (particularly weather related catastrophic events) as accurately as possible, this research will be of direct benefit to business and industry.

Research on economic development and management in emerging and transitional economies focuses on international human resource management (Branine; Chang), FDI (Siler) and tourism development (Worthington). Branine (MB1) used qualitative research to evaluate how Chinese managers perceive and respond to training and management development programmes that have been designed and delivered by western experts, and examines the extent to which such programmes have been successful in achieving their learning outcomes. This study contributes to the evaluation of UNDP management development programmes in China and provides recommendations to Western educators and Chinese policy-makers on the effective implementation of such programmes. Still in relation to China, Siler (PS3,4) examined the impact of FDI on the export performance of Chinese indigenous firms and sustainable growth in China’s regions through FDI. In a related study of economic development in emerging and transitional economies, Branine (MB2) provides a detailed review and analysis of Algeria’s employment policies and their implementation in times of socio-economic transition and political turmoil. This study, which contributes to the limited literature in English on Algeria, concludes that the ongoing problems of employment are the outcome of contradictory socio-economic development policies, and makes suggestions on how to overcome such problems. By contrast, but within the context of emerging economies, Chang's study of Taiwanese multinational companies in the UK (YC1) provides empirical analysis of how subsidiaries of multinationals from emerging economies develop their HRM strategies in different socio-economic contexts.

Worthington's research into emerging and transitional economies (BW1,2,3,4) focuses on the effects of tourism as a vehicle for sustainable social and economic development of the post-communist states of central and Eastern Europe, providing a theoretical analysis of the current literature, using empirically-based case studies to determine the role and function of tourism as a transition catalyst and in mitigating many of the worst effects of the deflation resulting from free-market transitional policies.

Public Sector Management

This theme includes research on human resource management in the public sector, mainly the National Health Service (NHS) and local government (Branine), the role and management of public sector professionals (Hotho) and government policies towards youth training and development (Turner). Branine’s research contributes to the development of policies for good employment practice in the public sector. His study of part-time work and job sharing in the NHS (MB3) found that the use of part-time work fits well with the cost-saving measures imposed on the management of the service but had led to increasing employee dissatisfaction, and that while job sharing opportunities would have been welcomed by many NHS employees only a very limited number of staff have been offered them. Similarly, in a study of 32 councils in England and Scotland (MB4), Branine concluded that although most female local authority employees prefer to work flexibly through job sharing, there is little evidence of established policies for implementing job sharing to provide equal opportunities. In this context, Hotho‘s research combines a critical and practice-oriented perspective with the aim of informing and improving management practice in public sector organisations. Using empirically-based case studies from the NHS and HEIs (SH1,2,3,4), Hotho has analysed leadership development in the management of public services; this work has been presented in more than 10 papers at international conferences including the Critical Management Studies conference. Turner’s research (JT1) examines the successes and failures of government policy on training for young unemployed people and makes practical recommendations for tackling the problem of youth unemployment.

Operations and Services Management

This theme includes applied research using stochastic models (Jack) and practical empirical research in the retailing sector (Turner). Jack’s research (NJ1,2,3,4) uses stochastic modelling techniques applied to optimal decision-making in warranty markets. His research on product warranties is in collaboration with Professor D.N.P. Murthy (PhD, Harvard), an eminent research professor from the University of Queensland, Australia who is a leading international scholar on all aspects of product warranties. This collaboration, supported through grants from the EPSRC (GR/R25064/01) and the Carnegie Trust, has resulted in a number of publications dealing with optimal maintenance strategies for items sold with one and two-dimensional warranties. Such strategies contribute to improved decision-making in operations and service delivery and the extended warranty model proposed in NJ4 has recently attracted interest from companies such as Hewlett Packard.

Turner focuses on customer loyalty by examining the impact of loyalty cards on customers’ attitudes (JT4). He also investigates the attitudes of parents, in particular, to healthy eating and schools (JT2,3). Both loyalty schemes and healthy eating attitudes are topical areas in the consumer and business sectors. The studies, based on empirical research, make significant contributions to knowledge in this emerging subject area and provide practical decision-making recommendations to managers and policy makers.

Staffing Policy

Staffing policy has focused on the integration of new research active staff into the developing business and management research community and providing staff development opportunities for existing staff appropriate to their current research profile. Most of the staff included in this submission either joined the School after 1 January 2001, having held posts in other institutions of higher education, or only commenced research activity in the field of Business and Management Studies after that date. Staff turnover in the last five years, as a consequence of School restructuring, has provided the opportunity to recruit new research active staff at post-doctoral level. For example, in 2007 four new members of staff who had just completed, or were completing, their doctoral training, were recruited; all are in the very early stages of publishing in peer-reviewed journals (one of them, Dr Yi Ying Chang, is included in this submission as an early career researcher). The current staff development policy for research targets the following areas:

  1. Research planning. All staff are supported and monitored in their development of research plans to ensure that their research activity is individually and institutionally developmental and successful. Plans focus on the particular activities and forms of support required to achieve these goals, in light of each individual's current research standing and focus;
  2. Research qualification support. The School supports two to three members of staff at any one time to study for a PhD degree within or outside the university. The support includes 50% tuition fees and time allocated for research, plus priority for conference attendance associated with their research;
  3. Project-based support. Where a project is undertaken by a group of research-active and previously non-research active staff, funding is offered to support data collection and staff development for the previously non-research active staff; this ensures that they develop the skills required for subsequent independent research. In this context Hotho and McGregor have worked with previously non-research active staff on ‘The Changing Dynamics of Contemporary Employment Relationships in a Scottish Organisation’, and ‘The Impact of Migration on Wage Differentials in Poland and the UK ‘, respectively;
  4. Encouraging collaboration. In order to pump-prime new joint research projects related to shared areas of interest, supervisors undertaking preliminary work with postgraduate students nearing the end of their studies, can apply for a School research grant to undertake the work, as well as support for joint attendance at conferences and research seminars to disseminate findings; this provides the basis for the development of longer-term collaborative links with alumni following graduation. Encouraging collaboration through multi-disciplinary teaching, between senior and more junior staff, also provides a basis on which research-based collaboration has emerged;
  5. Research methods training. This support is appropriate to newly recruited staff and established staff emerging as researchers. It adds value to University-based research training, by giving priority (in externally and internally delivered programmes) to particular groups of staff to whom formal research methods training may be particularly useful in extending their research options, their collaborative potential and/or their delivery of formal research output;
  6. Using the research-teaching link. Significant staff development in the School in this respect aims to develop approaches to teaching that operationalise the teaching-research link, and to meet the University targets for research-teaching linkages within the 07-11 strategic plan. Initiatives such as curriculum-innovation grants, for developing new subjects on the basis of leading edge research, are aimed at encouraging active researchers to produce new curriculum, and generating preliminary research interests among teaching-focused staff;
  7. Specification and implementation of a comprehensive research development strategy, which sets a framework for research career progression of five levels, starting from a baseline of research-informed teaching. Every individual member of staff is expected to be working at an agreed level on the scale. This ensures that all staff are research-engaged. Specific support is targeted at particular stages of research activity. For example, conference attendance support is a particular requirement for emerging and relatively new researchers. Since 2004, the School has supported more than 90 percent of those staff who requested support to attend conferences, including many new researchers for whom networking opportunities provide both an opportunity and incentive for development. Specific project support and the management of non-teaching time (including teaching-free semesters) are targeted at more established researchers working on large projects and/or the development of senior research status (internally or within their research field).

Research Strategy

The School’s research strategy is informed by the research strategy of the University, and has, in the reporting period, focused on:

a) sustaining development of research capacity in the context of radical restructuring, through continued emphasis on research as an activity integral to the academic role, within relatively broad research themes;
b) focusing research activity, within those themes, on the output value of projects and research areas, i.e. relevance to the needs of industry, commerce and public bodies;
c) ensuring that research, as a product and a process, also underpins the teaching and consultancy activities of the School, as a defining feature of HE and a core value of the School.

In line with the University's focus on collaborative projects, the School encourages interdisciplinary and collaborative research activity both within the University and with partners in other HE institutions. Examples of such collaboration are the work of Dr Siler with Drs Liu (Aston), Zheng and Wang (Leeds); Dr Jack with Professor Murthy (Queensland, Australia); and Dr Chang with Professors Wilkinson (Loughborough) and Mellahi (Shefield).

Our future strategy, based on this recent emphasis on capacity-building, developmental support and collaboration, while delivering output value within three broad thematic areas, will focus on:

1. Long-term Sustainability:

  • defining specific areas within the three current themes, within which the School can achieve research leadership (2008-10) as a basis for future recruitment and development;
  • launching one substantial project (funding ring-fenced) in the area of SME development and performance that draws on current capacity and provides a basis for drawing additional staff members into research (2008-09) - this reflects a developing interest in research on small business management and development following recent internal reorganisation which passed responsibility for the University's graduate enterprise incubator to DBS;
  • participating in collaborative research across the University in areas of strategic institutional importance - environmental studies and the creative industries.

2. Increasing Research Capacity:

  • expanding the research community to include an increased number of postgraduate research students (target, six additional registrations 2008-11) and early career researchers (five additional staff 2008-10, a further five 2010-12);
  • diversifying funding streams to encompass a wider range of competitive sources (including pump-priming small grants), reducing dependence on regional development agency funding and developing a broader range of research interests into larger project delivery.

3. Expanding the Range of Research Roles within the DBS Community:

  • developing research supervisory capacity and experience (six additional staff able to act as Principal Supervisors 2008-12);
  • extending the research-mentor role (senior researchers) to support newly active researchers among long-standing staff (five additional mentors operating by 2012);
  • using the existing research and knowledge transfer activities to define, in conjunction with research users, future research directions.

The research strategy is reviewed by the SMG every two years and then by School staff in 1) open research committee meeting and 2) plenary research meetings.

Research Students and Research Studentships

The School has successfully supported a number of research students, who have conducted research in different areas of business and management. The School has maintained an average intake of two new full-time research students per annum, and has been careful to limit its intake to ensure that it has been able, despite significant staffing changes, to initiate and maintain effective supervision to completion. All research students registered after 2003 have either completed or are in the writing up stage, and in the past three years six doctoral and two (research) masters’ degrees have been awarded.

A majority of the part-time research students who enrolled between 2001 and 2003 were members of staff working within a previous research development policy. Staff turnover, and the short-term demands placed on the remaining staff in these circumstances, obliged most to withdraw. The new research development strategy, produced as a means of further developing research active status, will obviate issues related to staff turnover and its impact on large numbers of staff undertaking part-time PhDs or DBAs.

Research students studying for higher degrees are seen as vital for the development of a lively, active research culture. Each research student is assigned two supervisors and is provided with a suitable environment (working space, computer and necessary software, access to all university facilities including our award winning library, training, support for conference attendance, etc.) for conducting research. All research students are expected to:

  • attend a School as well as a University-wide induction programme;
  • attend a School research training programme which covers all aspects of conducting research from developing a research proposal to defending research in a viva examination;
  • attend and participate in the school staff research seminar;
  • present their work annually in a progress report to the University and in the School research student presentations;
  • contribute to joint research projects with their supervisors and other members of academic staff. As explained above, the school provides financial support for joint projects.

The majority of our research students are overseas self or government funded but the small number (about a third) of home students are funded by UK industry, commerce and public corporations. To attract more students, the school has in place plans, and associated ring-fenced resources, to:

  • introduce a doctoral scholarship scheme (funding ring-fenced) to enhance research in areas consistent with the School and University research strategy (07-08);
  • develop an increased range of PhD supervisory capacity, reducing the number of applications rejected in recent years.


Membership of Editorial Review Boards

  • Mohamed Branine is a member of the editorial review boards for the Leadership and Organization Development Journal, and for the International Journal of Workplace Management, and regularly reviews papers for journals including Personnel Review, Journal of Management Development, Journal of Business and Economics (University of Qatar), Journal of Management (University of Croatia), and Employee Relations along with research grant applications for the European Commission and the ESRC.
  • Peter Romilly is a member of the editorial review board for the Journal of Chinese Economic and Business Studies, and reviews papers for various economics journals.

Conferences and Research Seminars Organisation

  • In July 2003, Mohamed Branine co-organised (with Ian Glover from Stirling) an International conference on Ageism, Work and Employment in which papers were presented by scholars from various countries including Australia and New Zealand.
  • In January 2004, Mohamed Branine, in collaboration with colleagues from the DBS and Lithuania University International Business School, organised an international conference on ‘Business Capacity Development and Economic Restoration’ (Vilnius, Lithuania, 28-30 January 2004), sponsored by the Department of Trade and Industry.
  • Mohamed Branine has organised, since 2005, an annual seminar on ‘Public Sector Reform in Developing Countries’ in collaboration with the University of Bradford and sponsored by the Foreign Office and the British Council.
  • In November 2006, Neil McGregor coordinated a conference on the employment of immigrant workers in Scotland.

All staff have regularly presented papers at national and international conferences.

Advice and Consultancy

  • Peter Romilly was interviewed by a national newspaper to give expert advice on the management of transport in Scotland.
  • Mohamed Branine was invited by the Universities of Bradford (2002, 2005, 2007) and Lancaster (2005, 2006, 2007) to contribute to their international management development programmes on international and comparative HRM issues.
  • Neil McGregor has regularly been invited by the Scottish media to talk about labour economics and the labour market in Scotland.
  • Mohamed Branine was invited to act as external assessor of candidates for promotion to Professor at the Universities of Putra Malaysia (UPM) and Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).

External Examining of Research Degrees

  • Mohamed Branine has examined more than 10 PhD students since 2001 at the Universities of Bradford, Cardiff, Cranfield, Lancaster and Manchester.
  • Pam Siler, Peter Romilly and Nat Jack have also examined PhD students in a number of UK Universities.