Students experiencing business school space: From spaces for learning to places of service

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


This article explores the student experience of the organisational space in business schools. We argue that the socio-cultural values and norms prescribed in the design of the organisational space serve an implicit, but active role in shaping student experience in business schools. The findings are based on an ethnographic study conducted on a postgraduate management programme at a reputable UK business school, where we engaged not only with students, but also with their social and learning environments. The findings suggest that the consumer-oriented contemporary business school designs influence the student conceptualisation of business school environment characterised by functionality, professionalism, corporate symbolism and wealth. While such characteristics are seen as favourable from the consumer perspective, they also tend to be perceived as clinical, cold and alienating by students in later stages of their studies. Following this, the commercialisation of business schools resulted in the emergence of rigid and unmalleable organisational spaces, transforming business schools from learning spaces into temporary places of service, characterised by fit-for- purpose and functional, but alienating environments. This paper contributes to management education literature on the implicit and informal elements of student experience in business schools by theorising space as an active factor in student conceptualisation of their educational experience. It also shows how functional and fit-for-purpose designs of business school spaces support the shift in the student perspectives on education from an inherently messy process of exploration and reflection towards a linear, outcome-oriented process of acculturation to the world of employment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
Event77th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management - Atlanta, United States
Duration: 4 Aug 20178 Aug 2017


Conference77th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
Abbreviated titleAOM 2017
CountryUnited States


  • management education
  • organizational space
  • student experience

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