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Steven Haberman is a mathematician by training and an actuary by profession. It is perhaps surprising, then, that he has been appointed dean of a business school, and one the UK’s most forward-looking business schools at that. But Prof Haberman, who took over the dean’s job at the Cass business school at London’s City University earlier this month, has had a lot of practice.
He has spent 10 years as deputy dean at the school, first reporting to Lord David Currie, who combined his role at Cass with that of chairman of Ofcom, the UK communications regulator, and more recently reporting to Richard Gillingwater. So while many deans come into a business school with plans for a complete overhaul, Prof Haberman is more restrained. “A lot of it is going to be more of the same. I don’t want to change the ethos. It’s not that we’re warm and cuddly, but it is friendly and people feel part of a bigger enterprise.”
During the decade, he saw his role as improving quality across the school. “We wanted high-quality products and a high quality of student experience,” he says. He is particularly proud of developments in the undergraduate business degree. “It was not in good shape 10 or 11 years ago,” he reflects. Now it is considered one of a top handful of programmes in the UK.
So, what is Cass Business School’s flagship product? Prof Haberman, a true diplomat, considers carefully. “It’s a difficult question to answer,” he begins. “For us the MBA is very important for rankings and profile. The masters programmes bring in the money. The undergraduate programme we think is outstanding....If there was a gun to my head I would have to say the MBA.”
Contrary to application trends in the UK more generally, numbers for both the full-time MBA and the Executive MBA – an MBA for senior working managers – have been creeping up over recent years at Cass. In 2012, 85 students enrolled on the full-time degree, compared with just 61 in 2010. The EMBA programme, which draws applicants from the City of London financial district, enrols 175 a year, including those participants that study in Dubai.
Although the City of London is still suffering aftershocks from the 2008 financial crisis, the genial Prof Haberman is pushing ahead with aggressive expansion plans for Cass. By the end of the year professors from the school will be teaching the EMBA and short executive courses in new premises in the City and both the undergraduate and full-time MBA buildings will be refurbished.
The physical expansion plans will be underpinned by an increase in student numbers. The undergraduate intake will go up from from 650 to more than 800 a year and Prof Haberman also has the professional market in his sights: “We’re going to put a concerted effort into growing executive education.” Revenues today stand at around £3.5m but plans are to increase revenues to £10m in the next few years, with clients including a mixture of City institutions, the public sector and professional services firms.
The growth in student numbers will in turn be underpinned by a planned growth in teaching staff, with Prof Haberman hoping to hire an additional 35 to 40 professors and lecturers to supplement the current 120. Over the past decade Cass, which is widely known as a finance school, has increased the number of teaching staff in non-financial topics, so that finance professors account for just 50 per cent of the professors, down from 70 per cent 10 years ago.
Like many business school deans, Prof Haberman is exploring ways in which the business school can work more closely with other schools in the university. But as universities go, it is different from most in that it has historically focused on professional training – journalism, engineering and health, rather than modern languages or philosophy. Cass already trains health sector managers and contributes to a degree in financial journalism.
And the new dean is also keeping a watching brief on overseas teaching. Cass teaches programmes in Dubai and Singapore already. “If we were to do more it would be find another financial centre, such as Hong Kong.” South America, especially Brazil, are potential growth areas, he adds.
Whatever he intends to do, he has set himself a five-year term in which to achieve it. “I am a one-term dean. My job is to get the school into a position where they can recruit the next dean from outside.”
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