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Quietly and efficiently over the past eight years, UCL, one of the UK’s most prestigious universities, has been building a business school. And throughout almost all that time, it is Bert de Reyck who has been in charge.

A Belgian by birth and education, the director of the UCL School of Management believes the school, though late into the game, has a real chance to make its mark. “We don’t have the brand of Oxford or Cambridge but we have that big university around us,” he says. “And we are in London,” adds Prof de Reyck, who was lured across town to UCL from London Business School.

The school of management will be different from the traditional finance school and will focus on entrepreneurship and technology, he says. Next year, for example, the school will build on the strengths in other university departments to launch a joint masters degree with the computer science department in business analytics and an executive masters in healthcare with the medical school.

The location of the postgraduate school emphasises the point. It is on level 38 of 1 Canada Square, the 50-storey skyscraper in London’s Canary Wharf, which until 2010 was the UK’s tallest building. On level 39 is an accelerator and incubator for new businesses.

From 2016 all postgraduate programmes will be taught from Canary Wharf, with the undergraduate degrees remaining on the school’s Bloomsbury campus, where students will mix with undergraduates from other programmes.

So far the school has not launched an MBA, but there are plans to launch a two-year executive programme in 2018, followed by a one-year full-time MBA in 2018. Before that, in 2017, the school will launch a Masters in Finance degree.

Also moving to Canary Wharf next year will be the one-year Masters in Management degree, set up five years ago and today the school’s most popular programme. It now enrols 150 students a year, but in 2014 there were 3,000 applicants. The dean acknowledges, however, that a good proportion of those were from a single country, China.

The school runs a second masters degree in technology and enterprise, as well as two bachelor degrees, in IT and management and management science.

The competition for students for the school will come from other business schools in Europe, says Prof de Reyck, but for professors the school is competing with US business schools as well.

As to his relationship with his old employer LBS, there is still a strong rapport, he says. Indeed on some occasions the two business schools liaise. “When we invite people from the US we invite them jointly.”

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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