Mark Meets University Challenge Head On

BRIDGING the gap between education and business is a passion of Mark Durkin.

So there can be no greater gift in his role of Professor of Marketing at the University of Ulster than equipping his students with the tools they need to flourish in the harsh world of commerce.

On October 24, at the Naked Leader Conference – Leadership That Makes You Money – Naked Leader founder David Taylor will welcome Mark on to the stage for a debate about Education versus Experience in the workplace. Both will give their viewpoint in what promises to be a fascinating session.

For Mark, there is a paradoxical issue surrounding the area of the skills required by employers. For him, it is not so much about the ‘how to’, more about the ‘why to’ – a broader and more informed perspective is, in his view, the key to long-term success.

He explains: ‘I want students to be action-orientated but in an informed way, so they can translate thinking into action. All action with no thought is entirely ineffective and a waste of resource.’

‘We’re all trying to build a knowledge economy – the implication is that in the information age the workforce needs to be equipped to not just to identify opportunity but to be the creators of opportunity through creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

‘Evidence thus far is that there is an increasing gap between the capabilities of new technology and the capabilities of the employees to extract commercial value from that new technology.

‘As change becomes more pervasive and consumers are increasingly empowered, employees in large and small enterprises must recognise and respond to that power shift.

‘The issue isn’t one of skills, (for example, being able to develop a Facebook ad) but rather of ‘informed perspective’ (knowing why developing such an ad would add value for firm and customer in the first place).

‘Skills are what employers tend to focus on most dominantly and skills are defined as “the ability to do something well” – from an employer perspective this usually comes about from having identified a gap/problem in their firm – they need a problem solved – and experience in the workplace helps make that happen more easily.’

Mark’s passion for making a difference for the students who continue to thrive under his tutelage shines through when he adds: ‘Education is “the process of receiving or giving instruction” – a key pillar to developing an informed perspective – to take us towards a knowledge economy.

‘The word ‘education’ has it root in the Latin word “Educare” meaning to “draw out” and in essence represents the opposite of cramming skills into graduates – education focuses on “drawing out” from graduates what they have learned (and also how they have learned) and then applying that to a work/practical context.

‘The skills side of the equation can be developed by the employer and will be job and context-specific. Education brings a new way of thinking, problem-solving, opportunity-creating and is not job or context-specific – it is general. A graduate of science, engineering, business, arts should all be equally able to add value in thinking, problem-solving and opportunity-creation.

‘Those who claim that the “University of Life” experience trumps the value of an education just display their own ignorance. I’m sure they’d rather have a trained cardiologist working on their triple-bypass rather than someone learning ‘on the job’!’

David is Visiting Professor of Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University and continues to assist Mark with the Business School team’s Agenda for leadership in the area of Entrepreneurship.

It involves the University engaging with opportunity-focused change agents from industry and leveraging this positivity into aspects of lecturing, research, and academic enterprise.

The tie-up demonstrates the importance of bringing together academia and business, taking the lead in helping to influence the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

‘It’s a really good partnership between Naked Leader and the Ulster Business School,’ says Mark. ‘David’s role as a global ambassador means he is able to open doors for us which we may not otherwise have been able to do because of our geography.’

As Mark has come from a financial services marketing background, before joining the University , his students are receiving theory backed up by practical experience and know-how.

And that was never more clearly demonstrated than when he received a recent call from a former student. ‘I was told they had just got a job and that without my digital module they would never have got it. That to me says we are on the right path and makes my work so rewarding.’

To book your place for the Naked Leader Conference in October, or to find out more, visit



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