New Dean Has Big Ambitions For Oxford’s Young B-School

The new dean of Oxford’s Said School has big ambitions for the 15-year-old business school

“I see as much potential here as I did there.”

Peter Tufano is describing his plans for his first-ever deanship. And here happens to be Oxford University’s 15-year-old Saïd Business School, where 248 students work toward an MBA in a year, under the guise of about 60 faculty.

There is Harvard Business School, Tufano’s training ground of three decades, where more than 900 MBAs in each class tackle the hallmark business degree over two years, with guidance from 240-plus professors of various stripes.

“That’s a pretty amazing statement. We’re no where near the top of the heap [at Saïd], but I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be. It’s all within our grasp,” he says.

It sounds pie-in-the-sky, but Tufano arrived at the young B-school in July 2011 under no illusions. He was moving across the Atlantic Ocean to tackle a little bit of bureaucracy, but to harness a lot of potential. In studying Oxford, he played the consultant – his pre-academic job – in search of the school’s sweet spot and the needs of the business world.

“I’ve tried to be pretty comprehensive,” he says of his nine visits before accepting the job, and subsequent 250-plus meetings with faculty, students – including accepted applicants that turned the school down – campus porters, CEOs, investors, executives, other deans and Oxford colleagues.

The resulting ethos may sound banal, he warns: “Failure to understand the rules leads to failure.” In practice, that means that one line of study – or ideas from a room full of MBAs – is not a guaranteed route to success. “To think that knowledge of traditional business school subjects will be enough is somewhat optimistic,” he quips.

His to-do list includes much of the bridge-building Tufano accomplished at Harvard, an institution known for its rigid academic silos, as well as with policy makers. “What wasn’t done was weaving our outstanding faculty, great students, and our specific opportunity areas together, and then into the broader Oxford University,” says Tufano. “We need to demonstrate that the model that is best equipped to succeed in this space is one that’s deeply embedded in the university. It will give us the best business school education around. We’ll really take advantage of our unfair advantage.”

Some structural links between Oxford’s law faculty, a new government school that’s about to open, and the Saïd school are likely. “The policy makers make some of these rules,” he explains. “Lawyers enforce others. We can combine all of the things we do to give more insight into how the rules of the game are influenced: that’s within our grasp. We have the raw materials.”

The Saïd school has come a long way since its inception, when some Oxford academics doubted that business management was a suitable topic of investigation for an institution like Oxford. “That battle has largely been won,” Tufano says. “Fifteen years ago, there wasn’t a B-school, there wasn’t a school of government, or a school on the environment. As far as I can tell, Oxford has gotten to the point that it’s embracing multidisciplinary (topics) and professional schools. I have energetic peers who see the potential here, and I don’t see a whole lot of resistance. HBS is a 123-year-old school, and there are still people at Harvard who still question its relevance.”

It also helps to have an American peer in Oxford’s Vice Chancellor, Andy Hamilton, who is the former provost of Yale University. Healthy links to Oxford are paramount for Tufano to succeed. “All of my MBAs are members of [one of Oxford’s 38] colleges, which means they can partake as much or little as they want (of Oxford). They eat and live and socialize there. They represent business to people who don’t study business. At HBS, students…are surrounded by people who share the same values about business. Our students absolutely have to interact with people who study science, medicine, [etc.,] rather than getting fooled into thinking that everyone thinks like you.”

It’s not surprising then that one of Tufano’s first initiatives is a so-called 1+1 MBA program that allows students to combine the one year MBA at Saïd with a selection of master’s of science programs offered by other University of Oxford departments. So far, four other Oxford schools have signed up:  the School of Geography and the Environment, the Department of Education, the Oxford Internet Institute and the Department of Computer Science. The program allows students to gain strong technical skills in a chosen area of specialization combined with the more typical MBA management training. The first students will begin this option in the fall of 2012.

Another Tufano initiative is a pre-internship program that will allow a small number of incoming MBA students the opportunity to do an internship in a select industry before the start of the MBA program. The aim is to help students wishing to make a career transition to try out an industry, giving them a head start on their post-MBA career transition. In essence, Tufano is attempting to eliminate one of the biggest drawbacks of a one-year MBA program–the inability to do an internship.

  • This should be obvious

    If Oxford can establish the same kind of recruiter connections that Yale SOM has, we should see a similar kind of positive momentum. Oxford’s advantage right now is that its building is better, but the new SOM building, when it comes online, will give it a significant boost.

  • Ha, touche. I don’t have access to the OED (I assume Tufano does). FWIW, also gives second (or third) billing to “suit of armor” as a definition:


    Pronunciation: /ˈpanəpli/
    an extensive or impressive collection: “a deliciously inventive panoply of insults”
    a splendid display: “I leaned forward to take in the full panoply of tourist London”
    historical or literary – a complete suit of armour.

    The point is that I believe Tufano’s usage to be correct given the standard definition in today’s usage. Your references to historical and Oxonian ties are well taken, though.

  • Alois de Novo

    @Ruler Supreme: When in Oxford, use the OED.

    panoply, n.


    [ad. Gr. πανοπλία a complete suit of armour, the full armour of the ὁπλίτης, f. παν- all + ὅπλα pl. arms. Cf. F. panoplie (occurring casually 1551, but adm. in Dict. Acad. 1835). The original Gr. and a latinized form panoplia occur in early use.
       1607 Sir J. H. in Harington’s Nugæ Ant. (ed. Park 1804) II. 213 As well episcopall as temporall panoplia, or furniture, beseeming both a gentleman, a deane, and a bishop.    1624 Gee Foot out of Snare 24 Let vs‥arme our selues with the πανοπλία of God.]

    1.1 A complete suit of armour, the ‘whole armour’ of a soldier (a) of ancient or (b) of mediæval times. (In (b) its brightness and splendour are chiefly connoted.)

    (a)    1632 B. Jonson Magn. Lady iii. iv, Iron.‥ More‥Than all your fury, and the panoply—Prac. Which is at best, but a thin linen armour.    1667 Milton P.L. vi. 760 Hee in Celestial Panoplie all armd.    1750 Johnson Rambler No. 78 ⁋1 Encumbered and oppressed, as he will find himself, with the ancient panoply.    1838 Thirlwall Greece II. 346 Their short spears and daggers were‥ill fitted to make an impression on the Spartan panoply.    1881 Jowett Thucyd. I. 243 Three hundred panoplies which were allotted to Demosthenes he brought home with him.

    (b)    1813 Scott Trierm. ii. xix, As all around the lists so wide In panoply the champions ride.    1839 Longfellow Coplas de Manrique xxxii, Scarf, and gorgeous panoply, And nodding plume.    1867 Freeman Norm. Conq. (1876) I. vi. 516 Armed with all the magnificence of the full panoply of the time.

    2.2 In various fig. and transf. applications: a.2.a fig. Complete armour for spiritual or mental warfare.
       Often with direct allusion to την πανοπλίαν τοῦ Θεοῦ ‘the whole armour of God’ in Eph. vi. 11, 13.

       1576 Fleming (title) A Panoplie of Epistles, Or, a looking Glasse for the vnlearned.    1650 S. Clarke Eccl. Hist. (1654) i. 4 Patience is the Panoply or whole Armour of the man of God.    1658 W. Gurnall Chr. in Arm. (1669) 245/1 These words present us with another piece in the Christians panoply.    1784 Cowper Task ii. 345 Armed himself in panoply complete Of heavenly temper.    1854 J. S. C. Abbott Napoleon (1855) II. xxv. 464 Napoleon was armed with the panoply of popular rights.    1884 Tennyson Becket v. ii, Mail’d in the perfect panoply of faith.

    b.2.b transf. Any kind of complete defence, covering, or clothing. c.2.c Any splendid enveloping or surrounding array, material or ideal.

       1829 Lytton Devereux iv. iii, What a panoply of smiles the duchess wears to night.    1832 Lander Adv. Niger III. xvii. 57 Another charm‥a panoply, for preserving all persons, while bathing, from the fangs of the crocodiles.    1850 Merivale Rom. Emp. (1865) I. viii. 322 Before him lay‥the mighty City‥gleaming in the sun with its panoply of roofs.    1856 Kane Arct. Expl. II. i. 22 His many-coated panoply against King Death.    1867 L. M. Child Romance of Repub. xxxv. 400 Mist‥as it grew colder, had settled on the trees‥covering every little twig with a panoply of ice.    1872 Jenkinson Guide Eng. Lakes (1879) 278 The two lakes, Buttermere and Crummock,‥surrounded by a grand panoply of mountains.    1887 Bowen Æneid iii. 517 Both of the Bears, and Orion, in golden panoply dight.

    3.3 A group of pieces of armour arranged as a kind of trophy or ornament.

       1890 in Cent. Dict.    1896 Daily News 5 Mar. 7/5 Some Russian shields, serving as panoplies, were added to the French shields.

  • In defense of Mr. Tufano, from

    pan·o·ply   [pan-uh-plee] Show IPA
    noun, plural -plies.
    a wide-ranging and impressive array or display: the dazzling panoply of the maharaja’s procession; the panoply of European history.
    a complete suit of armor.
    a protective covering.
    full ceremonial attire or paraphernalia; special dress and equipment.

  • Alois de Novo

    A panoply is literally a full suit of armor. From the Greek. The word is most precisely used in figurative speech to describe a complete defense.

    Tufano says: “We have a full panoply of tools, and we use them in different ways to attack this problem.”

    Unless he intended the oxymoron, Tufano’s fellow Oxonians must be shuddering.