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It is perhaps surprising given the overflowing coffers of many US business schools, even in recessionary times, that a school with an endowment of less than £20m ($30m) in the bank should for the past three years have topped the FT ranking of full-time MBA programmes.*
But the pull of London as a city, together with a line-up of top-notch research faculty, unrivalled global links and a highly focused approach to programme design, has made London Business School the destination of choice for many of the world’s high-potential managers.
For Professor Andrew Likierman, the dean, who took on the job in 2009, one of the values of the school is that it has a healthy academic atmosphere, encouraging disagreement as well as accord. “As a school we are eclectic in that we encourage a lot of different viewpoints. This is different from some schools that have a prevailing ethos … One of the advantages of being in London is that we have access to a lot of different people with a lot of different viewpoints.”
The past year has been a huge relief for Prof Likierman, with the return of both corporate clients for executive short courses and recruiters for MBA students – the two key business school indicators of a step back to economic growth.
The recruitment statistics for graduates are impressive: up 10 percentage points this year, with 91 per cent of students from the two-year MBA programme in employment three months after graduation. Financial services and banking are still the preferred sectors.
Of all the world’s top business schools, LBS is perhaps the one with the most varied degree portfolio, with 10 degrees on offer, including four executive MBAs, two masters in finance degrees, the Sloan programme, a PhD, a masters in management degree and the flagship MBA.
The one-year masters in management degree, designed for those with little or no work experience, graduated its first class of 100 in 2010, and was so successful that the school plans to increase the numbers to 140. The programme has had some positive effects on the MBA, says the dean. “It has brought new recruiters into the school, and this has had a spin-off into the MBA, which is not what people were expecting.”
However, there are a couple of dark clouds gathering this year. The first is the capacity of the school’s buildings in Regent’s Park. “We are absolutely bursting at the seams here,” complains Prof Likierman, who is hoping to expand into adjacent buildings, money and planning authorities permitting.
There is also the issue of student visas. The UK coalition government will decide in the next few months how it will issue employment visas for non-EU graduates who want to work in the UK. What is certain is that previous concessions that allowed graduates to work in the UK for two years after graduation will no longer apply.
And then there is the matter of the endowment. “It is too small,” concedes Prof Likierman. “There is no question about it.”
* In 2009 and 2011, LBS was ranked joint first with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania