It was just a year ago, when Sir Andrew Likierman took over as dean of London Business School, that the school was ranked joint number one with Wharton in the Financial Times annual MBA rankings. One year on, LBS now stands alone at the top of the table.

For Prof Likierman, it has been a time of both consolidation and progress. In particular, he says he has spent the year making sure “the place really runs well”. This has included organisational changes – bringing all degree programmes into a single office, for example, and reorganising the executive education department – but has also involved the smoothing over of much of the discord generated around the departure of Robin Buchanan, the former dean.

In spite of the recession, the school launched its masters in management degree in September, intended for would-be managers with no work experience. The school also launched a second stream on its executive MBA programme in Dubai. Moreover, Prof Likierman decided to increase the size of the MBA programme in 2009 to 400 from 320 in 2008. He says the increased numbers make sense in terms of the demand and the mission of the school – to educate people.

Though he is a professor of management practice – which means he does not hold a PhD – the somewhat inscrutable Prof Likierman is unashamedly academic in his approach to the job, and stresses the importance of the academic rigour and freedom of the school. Indeed, it is this sense of intellectual freedom that he believes has set European schools apart from US schools in the current economic crisis.

“By the middle of the year it was clear that there was a divide between the US, the UK and Europe,” he says. Schools in the US were much more intent on examining their role in the financial crisis, he says, a prepossession he puts down to schools having a stronger individual ethos – the Harvard way or the Chicago way, as he puts it.

“I don’t think there is a London Business School way,” he muses. “I have one colleague and when we meet in the corridor we argue about the financial situation. And that is fine. We don’t say to people: ‘This is the way we look at the world’.”

This does not prevent the school having cohesion and a strong culture – “internationalisation is a way of thinking”, he says. This is one reason why the school is able to retain top faculty, he believes – the school is ranked eighth in the FT research rating this year. “There are many things people like about working here,” he says. “It’s not just a place where they’ve pitched up.”

One of the dean’s biggest challenges in 2010 will be to increase the endowment of the school, which stands at less than £15m, compared with Harvard Business School’s endowment of nearly $3bn. But he says lack of funds is a challenge rather than a handicap. “We have worked very hard to get where we are.”


Top profs: five of the most highly-rated research professors*

International management
Julian Birkinshaw
Professor of strategic and international management, London Business School

A specialist in the performance of multinationals, Birkinshaw is a leading light in Aim Research, the UK’s bid to become world leaders in management thinking

Eric Bradlow
Professor of marketing, Wharton, Pennsylvania

An applied statistician by training, Bradlow brings number-crunching to the field of marketing

Ranjay Gulati
Professor of business administration, Harvard Business School

Gulati’s work centres on how to build high-growth and resilient companies. He is one of Harvard’s most prolific scholars

Douglas Skinner
Professor of accounting, Chicago Booth

Skinner’s current research focuses on corporate financial policy, especially reporting and disclosure policies and companies’ payout schemes, such as dividends

Gregory Fairchild, Associate professor of business administration, Darden School of Business

A writer of business cases as well as more traditional peer-to-peer journal articles, Fairchild is a specialist in how companies create value

Source: Financial Times research ranking 2010

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