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Birmingham Business School is raising its game. Although its management education is rooted deeply in the past – it was the first institution to offer a business degree in England in 1902 – it has its eyes firmly focused on the future.

“We have raised standards across the board,” says Jonathan Michie, director of the school. To emphasise this point the price of the school’s full time MBA programme has increased by 20 per cent to £16,200. “It fits in with the premium mindset we are trying to consolidate,” says Malcolm Everett, MBA programmes administrator.

As part of what Prof Michie describes as the school’s upward trajectory, candidates for Birmingham’s MBA programme must now have five years’ work experience under their belt. Students have an average age of 31 and the current full-time cohort is 90 strong. Prof Michie’s intention is to increase that number over the coming years.

The school already has accreditation from the UK-based Association of MBAs and is now seeking the seal of approval from Equis and the AACSB, both of which will help the school to lift its profile overseas.

Birmingham Business School offers a suite of MBA programmes, full and part time, as well as specialist programmes such as the MBA in international banking and finance and the MBA in strategy and procurement management. Its global, modular MBA is offered in three locations – Singapore, Hong Kong and Mauritius. Birmingham faculty fly to all three sites to teach the programme. Demand is so strong in Singapore, adds Prof Michie, that the school is considering putting on a full-time MBA there, again taught by Birmingham faculty.

A bilingual European MBA programme is available, with students able to divide studies between the Birmingham campus and one of two partner schools – ESC Montpellier in France and Fundesem Alicante in Spain.

“We are a full-service business school, covering both the home and the international students,” says the dean.

Birmingham’s masters portfolio is also growing with a further three masters planned under the marketing umbrella.

Prof Michie is confident the school already complies with the forthcoming Bologna accord and is confident it will be up to speed by the end of the decade when Bologna is implemented. Further innovations include the creation of the Birmingham Business School advisory board, chaired by Sir Digby Jones, director general of the CBI UK. Other members include Karan Bilimoria, chief executive Cobra Beer and David Gilby, vice-president of AOL. The board is very hands on, says Prof Michie, and offers expertise and strategy advice when necessary. Prof Michie’s strong academic pedigree – previous appointments include head of the school of management and organisation psychology at Birkbeck College, London – is reflected in Birmingham Business School’s research-led focus.

“Research is a central plank [of the school], with research-led masters courses creating new areas of expertise,” says Helen Rainbird, director of research and professor of human resources management.

“We see our research in terms of a strategy for the future and have been putting structures in place to support this,” she says.

A key aspect of this research focus is the school’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre, which develops and supports research projects in collaboration with business and higher education institutions. It also provides staff, students and alumni with support for entrepreneurship ventures.

In turn, the entrepreneurship centre has stimulated the creation of a subsidiary, but standalone company, Innovation- Xchange (UK). Prof Michie has high hopes for the company which, through a managed and confidential environment, allows businesses and universities to exchange innovative ideas and potentially pool knowledge.

Birmingham Business School is collaborating on the project with Cambridge’s Judge Institute, Tanaka Business School at Imperial and Manchester Business School. The UK’s Higher Education Innovation Fund has awarded a grant of £3.6m to establish the company and Prof Michie says he hopes IXC will be self-funding within two years, with companies and institutions paying a membership fee.

With the spirit of innovation running through the school, Birmingham Business School is also grasping the nettle and establishing a suite of executive education programmes run on a regular basis, rather than on the ad hoc approach which the school has operated until now.

Douglas West, director of executive education is excited by the challenges ahead. Since September the school has run three customised programmes for companies that were judged to be successful, he says, and open programmes are to come on stream next year.

Prof West believes success for the school’s executive education venture lies initially in tapping into the wider university.

“It is a question of collaboration with other parts of the university and relationship building,” he says. From that will stem contact with businesses that, for example, might be working with IXC.

Although only in its fledgling stages the venture has a fair wind behind it. Birmingham Business School, as part of a well-respected university with a strong brand, consequently has the advantage of a pool of expertise and resources at its fingertips.

It is also located a mere two miles from the centre of Birmingham – the UK’s second largest city – home to multinationals as well as thriving domestic companies.

The business school is also now housed under one roof – University House, which was renovated and redesigned last year and has undoubtedly given the school a new sense of community and fresh purpose.

The dean intends to build on the school’s foundations and will continue to internationalise, increase research and introduce new teaching programmes with a research focus in mind.

“We are going places, there is a very rosy future here,” states Prof Michie.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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