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You do not often see a dean wearing a hard helmet and high visibility vest; a business suit, more than likely, but not a fluorescent uniform. Neither are you likely to find one on a building site.

However, for Rob Dixon this is now a regular occurrence, because Durham Business School in northern England, where he is dean, is undergoing an £18m expansion and refurbishment.

Moving away from the existing 1970s concrete-heavy design, the new building will have four lecture theatres, including one that enables interactive learning and has social meeting places, such as a restaurant and lounge with roof terrace.

Glass will also be dominant, with a glazed entrance and walkway between two courtyards. The use of solar power will make the building more energy-efficient.

It is a move that Prof Dixon hopes will put the school on the international map, allowing it to attract “world class” faculty.

“Next year, we hope to have 110 academics, making it a more reasonably sized business school,” he says. At the moment there are 93.

This focus on faculty has been a theme of Prof Dixon’s since he took charge in April 2008.

In particular, he wants to blur the distinction between departments, hiring faculty from disciplines outside finance and have everyone work together to create a more interdisciplinary environment.

He believes the best way to do this would be to get all staff together on one site, which, thanks to the development started last month – and funded by university and business school reserves – will be possible by August 2013.

Another big challenge, according to the dean, will be strengthening corporate links. He is keen to run more programmes with KPMG, the consultancy, for example, where the school has worked hard to develop a relationship.

He is also proud of the leadership projects that MBA students can take part in with small businesses.

There are 32 students in Sri Lanka at present, working with low-income entrepreneurs. Another area for development is overseas expansion.

“We have 99 nationalities on campus this year and more than 70 per cent of staff are non-UK citizens; but we still have no representation abroad,” he laments.

But while the search for more faculty and interdepartmental co-operation takes place, student intake remains strong.

The dean says there has been a huge interest in the masters in finance programme – ranked 25 in this year’s FT table. Numbers for the MBA are up from last year and the school is also launching a master’s in marketing.

“We are a school that’s gone through considerable growth and we are still growing” he says.

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