Since an interview given at the end of 2014 by Maurice Lévy to the Financial Times , the expression “uberiser” is flourishing. The question was even invited in the debates of the last presidential election, that is to say. According to Wikipedia , this term, taken from the name of the Californian company of passenger vehicles with drivers, Uber, refers to
“A recent phenomenon in the field of the economy consisting of the use of services enabling professionals and customers to come into direct contact, almost instantaneously, through the use of new technologies. This concept is in fact opposed to that known for generations, and especially since the “thirty glorious”, that is to say the fixed and regulated world of wage labor.
The uberisation upset the established model of wage since the war boom in businesses increasingly diverse. Even higher education would not escape it. This is how some business school leaders, like Bernard Belletante of EM Lyon, do not hesitate to call for the uberisation of teacher-researchers.
Other school principals talk about it in internal seminars and put it into practice through their websites that allow independent contractors to submit their service offers.
According to the lawyers of the uberisation of business schools, evolution is inevitable. Beyond the agreed discourse on the “changing world,” and the bursting of new information and communication technologies that undermine the traditional ways of transmitting knowledge, there are real reasons that drive the leaders of these schools towards uberisation of their faculty.
The first is economic. If you report your salary at the time of class, a permanent teacher is expensive. It should be noted that, historically, business schools had almost no permanent faculty and employed management professionals and faculty, particularly in law and economics.
It is with the need to develop academic research, because of the requirements of international accreditation agencies (AACSB, AMBA, EQUIS), that these schools began to recruit permanent teacher-researchers in the early 2000s.
But this policy faces the constraints of its financing. Indeed, unlike public universities, these schools must be self-financing and the cost of this research is reflected in the rates charged to students (from 13,000 to 16,000 euros / year, an average of 45,000 euros for 3 years). The other lever is to increase student enrollment to increase financial resources.
The second factor that pushes these schools to become ugly is their internationalization. Indeed, by opening campuses around the world, it is becoming more and more necessary to recruit local workers for specific missions or to bring them from elsewhere. These speakers may be consultants or professors from foreign universities.
With an internationally recognized brand thanks to the rankings of the Financial Times and the triple crown ( AACSB , AMBA and EQUIS ) it is not too difficult to attract PhD holders from around the world. Intervening in such schools is a plus in the CV.
Uberisation can even go further than running courses or seminars. It is thus possible to create doctoral programs for executives in activity (Executive DBA) without permanent professors by using university professors who seek to exit punctually their institutional framework and round off their ends of the month.
In this respect, Professor Michel Kalika’s Business Science Instituteemploys more than 100 university professors from Europe, but also from North America and Asia. Other business schools are moving in this direction, which limits fixed costs to a minimum.
The last factor that drives uberisation is societal. Self-employment today corresponds to a demand for autonomy. The possibility of splitting the work ” gig economy” offers a multiplicity of choices to consultants and teachers to structure their professional activity independently of a salary relationship to a school.
Several brakes may slow the uberization of business schools. The first is regulatory. Indeed, in the current state of regulation, to deliver a degree recognized by the State at the master level (such as the Grande Ecole program), schools must be able to justify that at least 50% of the teaching is done by professors permanent.
This is obviously a limit to the use of uberised temporary teachers. A parade is to recruit non-research teachers doing maximum hours of classes and supervising many contractors.
The other obstacle comes from the requirements of accreditation agencies that monitor the research output of business schools. Only articles signed by the permanent professors on behalf of the school are taken into account in their evaluations. It is therefore necessary to keep a minimum of permanent professors to justify a research activity.
In order to boost this production, the school’s teachers will be encouraged to form partnerships with foreign colleagues. The latter participate in the uberisation of the business school. Another complementary parade: to specialize certain teachers on the research only by delivering them to the maximum of the teaching loads.
Finally, the last brake, and certainly the strongest, is that of the loss of identity. How to develop a strong identity and specific knowledge without permanent professors attached to the institution? In short, how to “go to school” with only uberized vacancies? It is here that one finds the specialization of establishments according to their public.
The most prestigious institutions will seek to develop specific courses from the research of their permanent professors, while the others will simply deliver standard courses on the basis of textbooks written by others and delivered by individual contractors.
However, for students who only want to accumulate knowledge validated by specialized proficiency tests (eg accounting, sales management or purchasing, etc.) these schools without researchers will respond to this request.
If we take the risk of uberisation seriously, it becomes urgent for the teacher-researchers in management to position themselves clearly in relation to this evolution. The worst thing would be to stick to the old model of the academic who does a little bit of everything: teaching (many times), research (often insufficiently) and administration (often obliged).
In the world of business schools, teacher-researchers will have to specialize: to become internationally recognized researchers to justify their treatment or to become excellent pedagogues able to develop innovative courses and coach teams of uberized teachers vacant .
Some will choose the path of self-employment and will seek to develop their notoriety from social networks. In doing so, they will accompany the uberisation of business schools.
Author Bio: Michel Albouy is a Senior Professor of Finance at the Grenoble School of Management (GEM)