Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow


Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world, and has been named Scottish University of the Year 2018. Glasgow is a place that inspires ambitious people to succeed. A place where inquiring minds can develop their ideas. A place where people make discoveries that change the world.

The University of Glasgow includes among its alumni the father of economics Adam Smith, and the Adam Smith Business School is named in his honour. We aim to follow his legacy and create world changing graduates who make a positive impact on culture and society.

We help to transform organisations and careers. Our business is creating inspiring leaders, researchers and professionals whose research and relations with industry have real impact, influencing organisations as they develop and grow globally.

The School has the triple crown of accreditation and is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International), the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS), and the Glasgow MBA is accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA).

Why the Adam Smith Business School?

Adam Smith is recognised worldwide as one of the most influential figures to emerge from the Scottish Enlightenment and the field of Economics. Naming the Business School in his honour commemorates his close ties to the University and enhances the University’s international reputation.

Enlightened, engaged and enterprising

By engaging in multi-disciplinary and research led teaching we engender in our students an appetite for critical enquiry and learning. We also encourage, informed by an employability and engagement agenda, the development of 21st century graduate attributes and skills. Internationally recognised research that informs academia, policy and practice will drive the Adam Smith Business School forward; its dissemination will inform teaching, shape our culture and deliver impact, whilst promoting the tradition of Scottish enlightenment and enterprise.

The University of Glasgow Business School is developing rapidly in its mission to be internationally known and highly regarded for both teaching excellence and high quality research. Our link to such a distinguished scholar differentiates the University and the Business School and demonstrates our interdisciplinary approach to business disciplines.

Adam Smith and the University of Glasgow

Smith described his time at Glasgow as: 'by far the most useful and therefore as by far the happiest and most honourable period of my life.'

Adam Smith was born in 1723 in Kirkcaldy. He entered Glasgow University in 1737 at the early – but for the time not unusual – age of fourteen. He returned to the University, first as Professor of Logic in 1751 and then a year later as Professor of Moral Philosophy, a post he held until he left academic life in 1764 for the more lucrative post of tutor/companion to the young Duke of Buccleuch.

That was not his final association because in 1787 he was elected Rector of the University and in a letter of thanks he remarked that he remembers his professorial days as ‘by far the most useful and therefore as by far the happiest and most honourable period of my life.’ Beyond courses in philosophy and jurisprudence he also discoursed on history, literature and language and published essays on language and the history of astronomy. But the most notable other product of his Glasgow years is his second great book, Theory of Moral Sentiments which appeared in 1759.

All Smith’s work is deeply steeped in moral philosophy. Indeed the simple fact that the final edition of Theory of Moral Sentiments, containing extensive revisions appeared in 1790, the year of his death, tells us is that Smith’s commitment to the moral point of view endured alongside and beyond the publication of The Wealth of Nations.

The Legacy of Adam Smith

Smith is an opponent of attempts to direct ‘the market’ but what he really opposes is the attempt to direct individual’s activities, their ‘natural liberty’ to pursue their own ends in their own way. This is itself a ‘moral’ position and Smith never forsakes that perspective. Hence he notes that the division of labour, as a malign unintended consequence, renders the worker stupid and ignorant. To remedy this he advocates a publicly subsidised system of elementary schooling. In a similar vein the government can regulate institutions (including banks) in the public interest.

The Smith of popular repute is the “father of capitalism”, the advocate of “market forces” and believer in something called the “invisible hand” to produce optimum economic outcomes. Yet, if we actually read Smith then these attributions can be seen to be gross simplifications. If asked what would Smith have made of “securitised loan packages”, “toxic debts”, and the like, then his answer would certainly have been that these practices were contrary to what he tried to teach. His all-pervading concern with moral philosophy that would make him critical of the way the contemporary economy has been run. If he was the “father of capitalism” he would be a disappointed parent.

Smith is a holistic thinker. The economic component of his vision is only one of the many and that was woven into the total fabric of his thought. Smith was not only the first economist, he was also a subtle and significant philosopher, an informed and sophisticated historian, an attentive and insightful sociologist, and a perceptive analyst of culture. In short, he offers a view of the world, and of human behaviour inside it, that is rich and complex.

-Christopher J Berry, Professor of Political Theory (Emeritus)