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Durham University News



Part-time MBA is just the medicine for former drug company chief

(7 March 2006)

Chris Avington the former director of Global Supply Network, GlaxoSmithKline

The North East man behind one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most innovative life saving treatments for asthmatics is facing a new challenge in retirement as he looks to bring on the next generation of business brains in a new role on Durham Business School’s part-time MBA.

Chris Avington, 58, from Barnard Castle, County Durham, is the former director of Global Supply Network, at the Durham-based secondary manufacturing and supply operation of leading international drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).

Chris held several senior roles at locations across the UK in a career spanning over thirty-years with the company.

Before he retired in 2003, he set out to achieve his life-long ambition to study an MBA at Durham Business School and graduated from the part-time programme last June.

Now, he’s returned to the Business School to help develop the business leaders of the future by assisting in the School’s innovative ‘Durham Boardroom Simulation’ programme.

It is intended to enable part-time MBA students to put business theory into practice and is specifically designed to give them the chance to take on the role of board members to see if they can cut it in a real-life boardroom situation.

It also provides an interesting insight into management within blue chip companies and teams will get the chance to work with Chris alongside three other external company executives who volunteered to ‘chair’ each group’s board and receive their group presentations.

These include former NHS Trust director Joan Rogers, former managing director of Magna Kansei Les Graham and Peter Heatherington, a former partner at accountants Ernst & Young.

Chris, who has also just begun a Doctorate in Business Administration (DBA) at the School, said: “The Durham MBA provided me with a first rate learning experience and the boardroom simulation presents a new and exciting educational experience to this year’s cohort.

“It is introducing innovative approaches to learning like this, that ensures the Durham MBA is bang up to date and relevant in the real world.

“I passionately believe the exercise will be a huge benefit to the students and I’m delighted to be supporting the personal and professional development of my MBA colleagues.”

Over the next few weeks, students will be showing their mettle as they assume boardroom roles and work together to gather information about their nominated company.

The aim is to develop a strategy to meet the real-life needs of that business and plan for its future success.

Prizes will be awarded to the top team at a ceremony planned for the programme’s conclusion on
31st March.

In 1995 Chris was the product stream director at GSK’s Hertfordshire plant where he was responsible for producing the groundbreaking MDPI or ‘Multi Dose Powder Inhaler”, a life saving treatment for asthmatics.

In 2000 he returned to the North East to oversee a monumental product rationalisation programme, which involved the re-licensing and transfer of over 1,600 manufactured products to alternative GSK sites around the world.

A hugely complex and high-tech operation, it involved over 140 markets and the manufacture of both the active ingredients that go into GSK’s pharmacetical products and the secondary manufacturing operations where active ingredients are processed and packaged into finished medicines such as tablets, injections, and inhalations as well as GSK’s over-the-counter medicines, including oral care, nutritional healthcare and smoking cessation products.

Anne Woodhead is the director of the School’s part-time MBA programme. She said: “The programme generates huge levels of enthusiasm and a real sense of achievement among participants.

“We aim to be as innovative as possible in our approach.

“It is a particularly exciting exercise for our part-time participants as they may have the chance to apply immediately what they have learnt in their own working environment – however large or small their organisation.

“Good luck to everyone involved.”

Students will also study modules on finance, managing in global and competitive environments, people management and management of information.

Additionally, the programme includes a focus on the ‘softer’ attributes that individuals need to succeed as managers. This includes a focus on negotiation, presentation, project management and leadership skills.

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