Business ethics in the curriculum: Assessing the evidence from U.K. subject review


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The growth of U.K. business ethics education has been charted at the course or 'micro' level by Mahoney (1990) and Cummins (1999) using postal questionnaires. These surveys, normally restricted to elite providers, have not revealed the relative importance of business ethics in the business school curriculum. In the 2000-2001 subject review of business and management programmes conducted by the U.K. Quality Assurance Agency for higher education (QAA), 164 business and management programmes were required to summarise their aims and objectives. Examination of this data using QSR-N6 software shows that only 14 made explicit reference to ethics. Church Colleges of Higher Education were disproportionately represented, indicating the importance of institutional context to curriculum development. An analysis of espoused aims in relation to business ethics suggests that cognition in business ethics is largely conceived as part of a broad contextual comprehension of the business environment rather than an understanding of theoretical constructs. The expression of aims in business ethics is more frequently characterised by affective or attitudinal verbs/nouns with a close link to the promotion of value positions, such as multiculturalism and environmentalism. It is concluded that business ethics occupies a more marginal position within the curriculum than previous studies have suggested. Copyright © 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)339-347
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004


Macfarlane, B., & Ottewill, R. (2004). Business ethics in the curriculum: Assessing the evidence from UK subject review. Journal of Business Ethics, 54(4), 339-347. doi: 10.1007/s10551-004-1823-z


  • Aims and objectives
  • Business curriculum
  • Quality assurance agency


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