LSE becomes an object lesson

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Enterprise LSE has come a long way since first opening its doors in 1994.

The commercial arm of the London School of Economics and Political Science has gone from strength to strength and now boasts a raft of executive education clients in both the UK public sector, international institutions and overseas governments. Recent customers have included the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan and the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs.

In 2005-06, turnover rose from £2.5m to £4.4m ($4.9m-$8.6m) and Simon Flemington, chief executive officer of ELSE, anticipates that this year the figure will rise to more than £5m.

Initially established to tap into the lucrative executive education market with the support of LSE’s intellectual expertise, ELSE rapidly found its feet.

It received a further boost in 2003 when it formed a joint venture with Duke Corporate Education, the customised education spin-off from Duke University in the US.

The division between the two organisations is a relatively straightforward one, says Mr Flemington. Activities for clients that centre around leadership or strategy, for example, come under the umbrella of ELSE’s joint venture with Duke CE, while ELSE concentrates on the public sector, national government and specific technical areas.

“It has always been quite clear and easy to distinguish which project should go where,” he says.

Customised portfolio

Mr Flemington says the liaison between the US and UK institutions has been extremely successful. Last summer, Duke CE and ELSE agreed to extend their joint venture agreement to cover Europe and Africa and this summer ELSE is preparing to take a 30 per cent equity option in the UK company.

The pair are currently engaged in a “significant programme” with Standard Bank in South Africa, says Mr Flemington.

On its home territory, ELSE is continuing to expand its customised portfolio and has 12-15 clients a year, a figure that Mr Flemington is keen to see grow.

Programmes can either be held at the school’s London campus, or delivered – as was the case with the Taiwan Ministry of Economic Affairs – in the client’s home country. At eight weeks’ duration, the Taiwan programme was one of the longest ELSE had designed.

Run in English, the course was tailored for 38 Taiwan civil servants, focusing on the structure of and decision-making processes within the European Union. The aim was to help the Taiwan clients acquire a better understanding of the EU and consequently be better able to deal with EU officials. The programme played to the academic strengths of the LSE and, in common with the recent offering for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, was a repeat programme – good indication of customer satisfaction, says Mr Flemington.

ELSE is also hoping to broaden its reach and develop two new programmes with customers in south-east Asia.

In spite of running programmes in, for example, both China and Taiwan, Mr Flemington is not aware of any conflict of interest.

“I think our clients respect the fact that as an academic institution we are free to develop our knowledge and expertise with other national governments,” he says.

As well as running programmes for 30 to 40 participants, ELSE also tailors programmes for single clients and has recently run two courses for senior individuals, one from the Urals and one from a central African country, on poverty reduction strategies.

The programmes, each about four months in duration and consisting of five to six week-long modules, give clients an intensive induction into an area where they need to acquire rapid and in-depth knowledge.

Such tailored courses are also attractive to those academics teaching on the programme, says Mr Flemington. They are able to gain a rare insight into a country and culture that would not generally be available and the lessons subsequently feed into research.

Growth potential

ELSE does not confine itself to customised executive education, but is also developing its consultancy business and has recently carried out work for companies such as Nokia, Carphone Warehouse and Camelot, the national lottery operator. Mr Flemington sees much potential for growth in this area of business.

Despite being a wholly owned subsidiary of the LSE, Mr Flemington retains a large degree of autonomy and is allowed freedom within the business plan to develop commercial activities he considers will contribute to the overall value of the school. Certainly, the consultancy projects are more than pulling their weight, contributing £2m of last year’s £4.4m turnover.

For the future Mr Flemington envisages more of the same, capitalising on but without exploiting the LSE brand, while developing further programmes and consultancy projects.

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