There are few business school deans these days who can claim to have the scale of influence over their business school as Dezsö Horváth, boss of Canada’s Schulich School of Business York University at on the outskirts of Toronto.
Though the business school was set up just 40 years ago – York University itself is just 50 years old – Prof Horváth has been on the faculty of the school for 31 years. For the past 20 of those he has been dean: he started his fifth five-year term in July.
But the globe-trotting 65-year old shows no sign of hanging up his gown.
“I believe there is still work to be done,” he says. “The school has to be made more robust, which means more resources, more [academic] chairs and developing more centres of excellence.”
That said, the scale and scope of the Schulich school owes much, if not all, to Prof Horváth’s 20 years at the helm.
So much so that in July this year, the dean was awarded the Order of Canada, the centrepiece of Canada’s honours system that recognises a lifetime of achievement and service to the nation.
The award was given to Prof Horváth for his academic leadership and commitment to business education in Canada.
All of which is a long way from his childhood and initial training. At the age of 13, at the time of the Hungarian revolution, he fled his native Hungary to Sweden with his family. There he started his academic training with an electrical engineering degree from Malmö Technical College.
He went on to earn a masters degree in business administration, a Licentiate degree in management and a PhD in management from the University of Umeå, where he began his teaching career.
When he took over as dean at Schulich the business school was largely a school for working managers, with between and 60 and 65 per cent of MBA students studying on a part-time basis.
Now between 60 and 65 per cent of them study on the full-time programme, with one in every three MBA students who graduate in the Toronto reason graduating from Schulich.
Prof Horváth has pushed the school to be one of the most international in Canada – at the last count more than 70 per cent of the full-time MBA students were non-Canadian.
Schulich has a dual degree programme with Guanghua School of Management at Peking University and has opened satellite centres in Beijing, Mumbai and Seoul.
The school now has around 500 alumni in Beijing and Shanghai and the dean is expecting to build up alumni numbers in Mexico City and in India.
“India is just beginning to pay enough for our graduate students,” he says.
Perhaps Prof Horváth’s most significant cross-border venture, though is the Executive MBA, which the school runs jointly with the Kellogg School at Northwestern University, just over the border in the US. This year the programme is the highest-rank Canadian-based programme in the FT EMBA rankings.
And on a personal level, Prof Horváth co-founded the International Management Centre in Budapest, Hungary, in 1989 and the Czech Management Centre in Prague, the Czech Republic in 1990.
He also serves on the board of advisers to business schools in Russia and China – St Petersburg University and the Guanghua school in Beijing.
Globalisation is one of the biggest challenges facing business schools believes Prof Horváth: “In global terms, until the early ’90s the market was segmented: there were national schools and regional schools. From the mid 1990s, globalisation took off in terms of inward investment and that changed the way people looked at MBA programmes.”
In future, he believes, there will be global schools and local schools but there will be no place for national schools. And he believes that a handful of Canadian schools – Schulich amongst them – will be in the 50 or so business schools that dominate the global environment.
One of the biggest challenges in achieving that is faculty: “There is a limited number of global faculty members in the world,” he says in a strong European accent. “But now I can pay like any US school.”
Prof Horváth has increased the faculty from 50 to 100 and is planning to employ a further 10 tenured or tenure-track professors.
In addition he has around 40 teachers who are executives, practitioners or adjuncts. Most significantly, perhaps, 70 per cent of the academically qualified tenure-track professors have been appointed in the past eight years.
One of the hardest jobs for deans is fundraising, but during his tenure Prof Horváth has raised C$250m ($199m), of which C$50m has gone into the endowment and $105m into buildings.
Schulich has earned itself a strong reputation in teaching responsible business and business ethics but Dean Horváth is not resting on his laurels.
His plan is to develop the school’s expertise in small and medium-sized enterprises, in socio-politics and in the health industry.
He is particularly optimistic about the future of the MBA, in spite of, perhaps because of North America’s economic woes.
“There will be no decline in demand for the MBA in the next decade,” he predicts. “What you will see is segmentation in the market.”
All of which is good news for someone who looks set to continue in his role for some time to come.
“In many ways I believe I have the best job in the world,” says Prof Horváth.
“It’s been a lot of fun.”