The Bologna Process in Higher Education has brought about important changes in European universities over the last years. At the Business School of Vitoria-Gasteiz of the University of the Basque Country-UPV/EHU we have faced the challenge of designing and developing a new degree: Degree in Business Management and Administration (BMA). Within this process, the definition of the grade competences emerged as one of the more complex tasks because they express both our commitment to the student, and the milestones to evaluate the learning process. The management of the business social and environmental dimensions, hereby identified as Business Sustainable Management (BSM), is one of the competences of the new degree, and will be the focus on this paper.
We are aware of the intrinsic complexity of the concept of BSM as we define in the context of this paper. It brings about a wide array of possible meanings that should and will be the subject of a deeper enquiry elsewhere. However, the increasing economic and social relevance of BSM in contemporary business environment has not been matched by its relative weight in the syllabus of the new Business Administration degrees for most of the Spanish universities. The development of this competence is therefore scant, uneven and provides little guidance as to the best way to develop this competence in the academic context.
Notwithstanding this, we believed it necessary to start analysing the evolution of student’s perceptions on this competence regardless of the specific meaning they attached to it. This piece of work is part of a larger research project looking at educational innovation in the process of implementation of the new degrees. In this context, the objective of this particular paper is to analyze student’s perceptions on the level of relevance and the level of development of the BSM competence in the BMA Degree. These two variables are analyzed from both a longitudinal and a transversal perspective, with the former comparing the perceptions of students of the same level for the last two academic years, and the latter looking into the differences between students of different levels for the same academic year.
Based on the answers to a questionnaire administered to 419 students of the BMA Degree at the Business School of Vitoria-Gasteiz, our results show a significant increase of the level of development of the BSM competence as perceived by students of the new degrees when compared to students of the old degrees. Regarding the level of relevance attached to the BSM by the students, we observe no significant differences between the students of old and new degrees. Nevertheless, the level of relevance increases importantly as the students advance in their specific degree.
All in all, we can conclude that the introduction of the new degree has contributed to reducing (approximately by a third) the gap between the perceived relevance and the actual level of development of the BSM competence in the degree. However, instead of becoming complacent, these results can be improved if we take advantage of the following factors: (i) the greater commitment of contemporary society towards sustainability, amongst young people in particular; (ii) the emphasis on sustainable management of the urban development model of Vitoria-Gasteiz, awarded as European Green Capital 2012; and finally, (iii) the strong teaching and research commitment of a significant group of lecturers of the Business School.