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Training and Related Topics in SMEs

Training and Related Topics in SMEs
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After many years of skirmishing at the peripheries of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) in the UK, I have decided to get more fully involved in this thorny aspect of academic life. There are many reasons why I feel so strongly about the ongoing debate on the RAE, some of them are professional and other more personal. Basically, as an academic researcher and journal editor,
I am no longer prepared to contend with informal, confidential and ultimately inconsequential feedback as a proxy to academic reality, freedom and working lives in the contemporary higher education climate in the UK. Further more, I would suggest that if anyone has something important to say on this issue, then it should be said openly and without fear of repercussions. I realise, however, that sometimes it is easier and more comfortable to “go with the flow” in the hope that, if bad things are about to happen, then it might somehow bypass us and only affect others. This is nai¨ve and dangerous mindset, one that historically has been proven to have consequences that reached far beyond individual, local or even national boundaries.
It also occurs to me that keeping silent and accepting to live under the shadow of a centrally-imposed regime of shifting quantitative and qualitative measurements of academic output is tantamount to collusion and complicity. In June 2004, I met up at a conference with a friend ofmine, an expatriate academic who lives and works abroad. We talked about many things, including the “good old times” when working in a UK university was a satisfying, prestigious and enjoyable experience. We remembered research as a socially and economically useful activity, free from journal ratings snobbism and misguided managerial pressure and control. Perhaps we were deluding ourselves and such good times only exist in our retrospective vision of academic Utopia and Ivory Towers. Just as we shook hands and said goodbye for another few years, my friend quoted back to me something that I said many years ago, that “a government might have the power to impose certain things but it does not necessarily has the right to do so”.When I made the comment, sometime in the mid-1980s, it was in relation to the now defunct governments of communist Eastern and Central Europe. Arguably, the UK government has themandate from its voters, and with it has the right to impose wide-ranging changes in the nation’s higher education system.
The question is, how well informed are those voters and how far do we, academics, collude in the ongoing RAE process? Furthermore, do we – or indeed any other stakeholders – have a say or a choice in this matter? Should the government be allowed to experiment with the future of the nation, at all levels of the educational system? In order to answer these and many more pertinent questions, I intend to undertake a number of empirically rigorous research studies to cover a wide variety of related issues and perspectives. In this context, I would welcome feedback, suggestions, guidance and perspectives from anyone who cares enough about the RAE and its consequences.
This special issue brings to a close another exiting and successful volume of JSBED, my third as Editor. It focuses specifically upon a crucial but often neglected aspect of small business and enterprise development. As a research topic, training and related issues in SMEs continues a tradition that I inaugurated in 2000, as the Guest Editor of a double special issue in Education þ Training. Following its tremendous success, we turned it into a yearly event and the fifth in the series (2004) is currently in production. In 2003, I complemented the Education þ Training series with a JSBED (Vol. 9 No. 3) special issue on human resource (HR) aspects of small business and enterprise development. The current issue brings forth a number of new developments in this specialist area of research. Although some articles on training and HR in SMEs have appeared sporadically in other academic journals, I sincerely believe that designated special issues have an important role to play in disseminating knowledge and expertise that belong together in thematic offerings, to be used both as research monographs and as teaching resources. Feedback from the UK and abroad confirms that these are often used in higher and further education as well as in public and private training organisations. In each volume of JSBED, two issues are dedicated to general topics and the other two to special issues involving “cutting edge” research. The feedback on this publishing strategy, as well as on the chosen focus, has been excellent, amounting to a readership encouragement that is both constructive and reassuring.
Finally, as it has become customary, I would like to extend my gratitude to all the contributors to this special issue: authors, referees, advisors and to my Managing Editor – for all their hard work, patience and commitment to the quality and growth of this journal.
Harry Matlay

Previously published in: Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Developement, Volume 11, Number 4, 2004

Emerald Group Publishing Limited; November 2004
97 pages; ISBN 9781845442194
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