Oxford’s Saïd Fights ‘Bunker’ Mentality

Said Business School at Oxford University

Said Business School at Oxford University

When the dean of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School sits down to coffee and croissants with his students once a week, he likes what he hears. He’s presiding over a revamp of the school’s curriculum, and the feedback over breakfast has been good.

Not to say students didn’t already appreciate the university’s one-year MBA program as it stood. The latest rankings from The Economist show the Oxford cohort rate their program more highly than their counterparts at London Business School. Saїd’s students are happy, employers like what they get, and employment stats are healthy. Some 15% of students go on to entrepreneurial ventures, and the average graduate salary for 2012-2013 was $103,105 (£60,589).

According to Dean Peter Tufano, Saїd hasn’t removed the usual “bread and butter” fare of the MBA experience. In fact, the business school has strengthened some of its core disciplines. But the institution has also added a mix of less obvious elements – global awareness, a beefed-up entrepreneurial program, and broader collaboration with Oxford academics. Tufano hopes to leverage the expertise and prestige of the wider university more forcefully, a strategy that is also playing out at several other business schools, including Yale’s School of Management.


“The ‘why’ of this change is simple,” he says. “When I speak to CEOs and other business executives about what they need, they want rigorous training in accounting and so on, but they also want understanding of world-scale topics that you wouldn’t find in a marketing or finance course.”

This redesign is in part Saїd’s long-considered response to the criticism levelled at business schools in the wake of the financial crisis. “The sense that business schools are too distant from society and not wise about the context in which they operate,” as Tufano puts it. “If you surround business school students with a steady diet of business faculty and business speakers, it’s not surprising you’ll inculcate a bunker mentality,” he says.

The broadness of the “Oxford experience” already features prominently in Saїd’s offering. MBA students lodge on the university’s campus and dine or play tennis with students from other colleges such as Brasenose and Magdalen. In fact, Saїd has this year begun inviting humanities professors from the wider faculty to teach within the MBA program. “We have experts in philosophy or the arts all trying to figure out what it means to be a leader and make decisions in complex times,” Tufano says.

He’s also introduced the “1+1” MBA, which allows students to study for a combined master’s and MBA over two years. A few ad hoc groups and initiatives have sprung up among MBA and other master’s students. “This is what employers want,” says Dana Brown, executive director of the MBA. “People who can engage and communicate with scientists, policy makers – but not in the language of the Harvard Business Review.”


So, here is the nitty gritty on the changes which take effect this fall. Three cross-cutting themes embedded in the curriculum will take effect in September: global rules of the game, entrepreneurship, and responsible leadership. These are critical areas for students to master, whether they end up in finance or social enterprise, Brown says. She’s pored over years of student and employer feedback to wring through these changes.

As for the global rules of the game, this tackles not only geographical differences in regulations but the informal rules operating worldwide. Saїd’s intake this year includes 43 nationalities–as well as a China expert and an African specialist who will join the team in September. The school also benefits from the university’s active Oxford India Business Forum. “We try to touch on most regions,” Brown says.

  • Oxford MBA Student


    The advantage of being an Oxford student is that you can audit any lecture or any full class in any department campus wide . The entire university is a playground for unrestricted banter and learning.

  • Hedge67

    Oxford’s said main rival is not LBS, it is Cambridge’s Judge business school. LBS is away above the two. However, there is big difference between Oxford’s Said and Cambridge’s judge, the first emphasize on the traditional technical knowledge, therefore, focus on lectures, and dig deep into finance, economics, operations, etc. Cambridge on the other side offers a project based curriculum for its MBA, you have to do many projects, real ones. I guess they are four projects throughout the year. So, it is the one’s choice and desire to chose. Both provide good education and brand names, though they are known for undergrad not for grad, let alone the MBA.

  • Lars

    And another question that you might know: Is it possible to take courses outside Oxford Said, e.g. in the economics department? You wrote something about a better integration of Said into the greater Oxford community.

  • Lars

    John, do you have any idea why Oxford got rid of their former core course microeconomics/business economics?

  • JohnAByrne

    We know. But I have since fixed it.

  • froed290

    Thanks a lot John..by the way, the picture on the top is NOT for Said Business School! it is for one of the oxford’s colleges.

  • JohnAByrne

    I really don’t know. Yes, it is odd that a school would publish a career report without basic compensation data. As a result of your earlier question, I made sure our reporter asked for the data and he provided it.

  • froed290

    Thanks John, But why did not they put it in the career report?! as all schools do! It is pretty weird that they publish a career report without a salaries figures. Did he explain why is that?

  • JohnAByrne

    Here’s what Derek Walker, head of careers at Said, gave us:

    MBA Salaries 2012-13


    Average salary: £60,589
    Median salary: £60,000
    Maximum salary: £101,206
    Minimum salary: £17,653


    Average salary: £75,853
    Median salary £79,730
    Maximum salary: £100,000
    Minimum salary: £46,000


    Average salary: £57,904
    Median salary £59,300
    Maximum salary: £82,797
    Minimum salary: £19,615

    Diversified Industry

    Average salary: £61,228
    Median salary £65,000
    Maximum salary: £101,206
    Minimum salary: £32,505

    Nor for Profit/Government

    Average salary: £39,733
    Median salary £43,250
    Maximum salary: £53,358
    Minimum salary: £17,653

    Note – salaries in local currency are converted at the prevailing spot rate on 5 February as reported in the Financial Times

  • froed290

    Where is the salary figures in the career report of Oxford’ MBA?! I just looked into their website and saw no salaries data on the latest report, 2012 -2013!!!