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by Vault Consulting Editors | January 10, 2011


FT.comCEIBS professor and president Pedro Nueno has hit out at the private consulting opportunities that many business professors are pursuing to lucrative ends. Today in the Financial Times, Nueno asserts that it has become common practice for MBA professors, acting as sources of indispensable strategy and management expertise, to essentially teach their business school curricula at companies in exchange for hefty fees.

Nueno's gripe isn't with the opportunities themselves (in fact, he admits that most schools "encourage their professors to do consulting as part of their workload"), but with the manner in which the opportunities are secured. The trend, he suggests, is for high-profile professors to engage companies solo or via a personal agent, leaving the school out of the equation (and, crucially, out of the payoff).

The Financial Times on business professors going rogue:

"For a growing number of professors, consulting means merely repeating their classes when visiting a company. Some even advertise their availability when teaching in their business school (even giving information about their rates). Some have 'consulting companies' that they use as vehicles for this activity and some issue invoices from companies they have established in tax havens."

It makes sense, doesn't it? Considering both the wealth of knowledge they possess and their experience imparting it, business professors are perfect candidates to be big-time consultants—and to command the big-time fees that reward their expertise.

And what better place than academia to take refuge from the travel- and hour-heavy demands of the consulting industry? Clearly, many businesspeople consider a career in academia a potential win-win scenario: they get to ply their trade—teaching students what they would normally teach companies—while working fewer hours, and with less intensity than the business world requires. Of course, the tradeoff is lower salary—a minor detail that, so far, these resourceful professor/consultants have sidestepped with ease.

Nueno's concern is, understandably, for his own school's financial wellbeing, and he probably has some legitimate gripes. But business professors, ever in-the-know when it comes to identifying easy revenue streams, are simply leading their students by example. Finding innovative ways to use their own talents and energies to maximize profit? That's business school 1.0.

So, until someone (the schools themselves, most likely) changes the rules to explicitly forbid (or rather, explicitly include the schools in) non-academic consulting opportunities, business professors will continue to rake in the cash for imparting MBA-style advice and wisdom upon both students and companies alike.

For more information:
Financial Times
China Europe International Business School (CEIBS)

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Filed Under: Consulting