The Long Game: Elaine Fryett

February 4, 2019

Elaine Fryett is the associate dean (learning and teaching) at Teesside University Business School. She is responsible for delivering a high-quality learning experience to ensure students are well-equipped to progress into, or within, their chosen professions


Before joining Teesside University, I spent five years working as a management consultant. I secured this role as a direct result of research I carried out as part of my MBA at Teesside University. My dissertation was on partnership effectiveness within sport and the work that I did led to a contract with Sport England and a job for me with the consultancy firm. Working as a consultant, I focussed predominantly on the strategic development of organisations and partnerships across the public, private and third sectors and worked closely with organisations to build capacity to enable sustainability of the projects.

Business teaching, like the higher education (HE) sector as a whole, has undergone substantial change over the past decade. It was once primarily about sharing knowledge, imparting information and demonstrating expertise, with a focus on more didactic teaching methods (lectures etc.). It was much more formalised with an emphasis on theories and models based on artificial scenarios such as case studies.

When I joined Teesside University in 2012, a radical shift was underway with a move away from this model. Students were being treated more like partners in their own learning, exploring content through collaborative activity and active learning methods, and being asked to consider and reflect upon their perceptions and experiences to aid learning. Teaching was focused on engaging students in business-focused activities and, while case studies remained an essential resource, students were engaging and learning from real scenarios with the support of employers.


Today there is a greater recognition across the
HE business sector that this more active and experiential learning approach better suits the
needs of our learners. In the business school, we actively encourage our students to challenge existing knowledge, work as partners in the co-creation of learning and develop their capabilities, with the support of our business partners.

At Teesside University we have just invested £7.5 million in our business school to provide a state-of- the-art contemporary space which encourages our students to work collaboratively with our team in the school and, importantly with our business partners. We work with our learners to develop graduate skills which are essential in any workplace with a much greater focus on enterprise, entrepreneurial skills and associated capabilities skills such as disruptive thinking, problem-solving and agility.

The changes that have taken place across the sector mean that students now take much greater ownership of their learning. Developments in technology also mean that, more than ever before, we all have access to vast amounts of information and knowledge with immediate results.

Our Future Facing Learning initiative is a vital part of our response to this. It’s one of the biggest digital projects in the sector with every new undergraduate at Teesside receives an iPad and toolkit of apps designed to help them excel at university. This underpins our academic frameworks and teaching methodologies and our training initiative with Microsoft ensures we maximise the potential of digital technology within our teaching, from the first day a student enrols at Teesside University.


Perhaps the biggest challenge for the future is uncertainty. We are continually engaged in research and debating ‘what the graduate of the future looks like’ and therefore how we position ourselves to best prepare our students for this unknown workplace.

Developments in technology, AI and automation are all likely to have a significant impact. A business school has a crucial role to play in working in partnership with students and employers, building core skills to enable students to be adaptable to the changing needs of employers and future workplaces, work patterns and roles.

The future is about the embedding of an infrastructure that posits collaboration as the
norm. I feel that business schools should focus on providing a learning environment where students, businesses and organisations collaborate, develop real-world impact and ultimately benefit the wider society through creating solutions that enforce values based on sustainable business practices and an enterprising global outlook. This focus will mean that business schools will be central in developing businesses, and learners from across the world through flexible and tailored learning experiences. Solutions will be provided by a business school that incorporates businesses and learners and teaching approaches will be responsive to the needs of a global learner.

Teesside University

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