Stephen Bach, the first dean of the new business school at King’s College.
Stephen Bach: 'What we are hearing from employers and some of our advisory group members is that companies are looking for talent at an earlier stage' © Anna Gordon/FT

King’s College London has become the first leading British university to open a business school that will not offer an MBA.

Stephen Bach, who will be the dean of the school when it opens next month, said that, after speaking to businesses, there did not appear to be enough support for an MBA programme.

“It is not where we want to focus our efforts,” he said, adding that many of the existing MBA courses, particularly the two-year version created in the US, have seen sharp declines in demand.

The new King’s Business School will instead offer only specialist masters degrees, taken by younger students in subjects such as finance, management and digital management, alongside undergraduate courses and short executive education training for corporate clients.

“What we are hearing from employers and some of our advisory group members is that companies are looking for talent at an earlier stage,” Mr Bach said.

“They are looking for new students who are very strategic in their thinking but are still malleable. We already have great strengths in teaching people in those areas.”

King’s College is one of the last of the leading British universities, defined as the Russell Group, to create a business school. All the others, however, offer MBA programmes.

A year ago University College London, another Russell Group member, opened the UCL School of Management at a new campus site in Canary Wharf. It now runs an MBA course jointly with the National School of Development at Beijing’s Peking University.

King’s business masters degrees will have a focus on teaching “soft” skills, such as working in teams and emotional intelligence, Mr Bach said, adding that these are qualities many employers put at the top of their list of requirements.

Leading universities are benefiting from a “flight to quality”, according to Mr Bach, who claimed that the value of the King’s brand had shielded his school from the negative impact of Britain’s vote to leave the EU.

Like other British business schools, King’s has benefited from the devaluation of sterling, which has reduced the size of tuition fees compared with overseas courses.

Applications for the 2,000 student places at King’s Business School were up on the finance and management degrees previously offered through the university’s department of management and business, Mr Bach said. The initial intake includes students from 80 countries.

King’s has increased its finance and business faculty from about 60 professors two years ago to almost 100 today to cope with the increased demand.

The new hires include several professors previously employed at universities in Hong Kong, Germany and Canada, choosing to move to Britain despite the perception that Brexit will make it harder for academics to get funding for their work, Mr Bach said..

“People really talk about the strength of the research culture here,” Mr Bach said. Having said that, Mr Bach also admitted that research funding could be undermined by leaving the EU. “We are not at all complacent about Brexit,” he said.

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