Marketing Education should be a Passion not a Vocation

Many years ago I was asked to give some courses at our local university. Although I was a seasoned professional in marketing and had given numerous marketing presentations, including some guest lectures at universities across Canada and USA, I had not formally taught a university course. So I agreed to teach some marketing courses at the business schools in my community first at the University of Ottawa (B Comm and MBA) and later at Sprott School of Business at Carleton University (B Comm). I also had the opportunity to teach a seminar program in the USA at the University Of South Florida College Of Public Health. After close to 25 years I finally gave up my post as lecturer but still run a program at the Professional Programs at Sprott i.e.  Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing.

I also continue to give seminars and workshops at Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) which is devoted to the advancement of strategic marketing in governments, non-profits and associations and are very involved with training and consulting.



I thoroughly enjoy teaching and training. Although I would never want to be a full time academic as I truly believe that in the field of business those who teach business, particularly marketing should be practitioners who work in the world of business every day otherwise the only experience they can draw from is academic readings and research etc.  That may make sense in the social sciences but not in business schools. However, needless to say the vast majority of tenured full time professors in business schools come from the world of academia and many have never worked in business.

Now you would think that these tenured professors who are paid to mainly teach (or you would think so) would actually be teaching and lecturing students who will be our future business leaders of tomorrow. Well, new research from the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, a provincial government agency, finds that the typical teaching load of a university professor has dwindled to less than three courses a year – 2.8, to be exact, just 1.4 courses per semester. A quarter of a century ago, a teaching load of five courses a year (three one semester, two the next) was common.

“There is too much of a flight from teaching and other student-oriented activities,” says Ken Coates, a public-policy professor at the University of Saskatchewan and co-author of the new book What to Consider If You’re Considering University.

So how are the professors spending their time? Research. The system is skewed toward research, because research is rewarded by government grants, promotions and prestige. Clearly, this makes more sense for some disciplines like nanotechnology. But these days, everyone is supposed to be a teacher-scholar, even though there is little evidence that research improves teaching, or that this entire scholarly endeavour is worthwhile. Much of it languishes in obscure, unread journals, doomed to be uncited for all time.

“Publish or Perish” is often heard in the halls of academia. Deans want to know your publishing records although in recent years student evaluations of professors are being used to evaluate professors. But as one professor mentioned to me the professors who might have poor evaluations may be the best teachers as they may be tougher on the students and don’t hand out A’s and are very demanding (a recipe for poor student evaluations)

Universities are unaccountable for results, if, by results, we mean successfully educating students. In the reward system of universities, its research, not teaching, that matters. Professors are rewarded not for turning out high-quality graduates, but for turning out books and papers – even if they are unread. This perverse system stubbornly persists; despite the fact that everyone knows it’s absurd. Some research, especially in the sciences and medicine, matters a great deal to the advancement of society. But a vast amount of it does not.

According to Wharton professors David J. Reibstein, George Day, & Jerry Wind in their Guest Editorial: Is Marketing Academia Losing Its Way? (Journal of Marketing (01-JUL-09) “There is an alarming and growing gap between the interests, standards, and priorities of academic marketers and the needs of marketing executives operating in an ambiguous, uncertain, fast-changing, and complex market-space.

The authors “contend that the gulf between marketing academics and senior marketing and corporate officers has widened. Academics are not listening to marketers’ needs and the issues they confront. The number of academics attending chief marketing officer and other chief-executive officer forums or paying attention to the output is negligible.” (Kind of ironic that marketing academics are out of touch with the potential clients for their information)

In an article Marketing education doesn’t have to be this bad by David Finch, John Nadeau, Norm O’Reilly , the authors state: Unless there are fundamental changes in how undergrads are taught, tomorrow’s talent will enter the workforce disillusioned, ill-prepared and saddled with student debt for years.

So where does this leave us in the world of business especially marketing. If you are a practitioner who works in marketing or communications and want to learn marketing forget about going back to a university to take undergrad or MBA marketing courses. You are much better off taking training programs from seasoned professionals who love teaching and live in the real world where they practice and work in marketing and business every day. I know this sounds like a plug for what we do at the Centre of Excellence for Public Sector Marketing (CEPSM) and of course our professional programs  like the Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing.  But clearly professors who work in universities (with some exceptions of course) are not focused and passionate about educating students .



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