Gazing out of his window, the dean of Warwick Business School looks onto a building site. Next year this will be transformed into £30 million of swanky new facilities as the school’s premises become half as big again – complete with state-of-the-art lecture theaters, seminar rooms, a 150-seat cafe, and a Behavioral Science lab ready for the September 2015 intake.
In the four years that former hedge fund manager Mark Taylor has led one of Britain’s top business schools, he’s shaken up the flagship MBA and other business degrees with innovative content and helped to make Warwick a leader in the digital delivery of education. He is that rare scholar who has distinguished himself in both business and academia. A former economist with the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of England, he had been managing director at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, before joining Warwick as a professor of international finance in 1999. Taylor is among the most highly cited academic researchers in the world.
Since becoming dean in April of 2010, he has been trying to make Warwick the leading university-based business school in Europe. Even though many of Europe’s very best business schools, such as London Business School and INSEAD, are standalone institutions, Taylor has set Warwick on a highly ambitious course. After all, Warwick competes in the U.K. against the likes of Said and Judge business schools yet lacks their connections to the ancient world-class universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
THE SCHOOL HAS DONE WELL IN SEVERAL INFLUENTIAL RANKINGS
Warwick Business School, however, is linked to a respected modern university which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015 and WBS boasts some impressive rankings: For what it’s worth, the Financial Times puts the school’s full-time and Executive MBA in the top 25 globally. Forbes has Warwick’s full-time MBA seventh place in its rankings of international one-year programs. Warwick’s masters in finance is ranked as the top of its kind in the U.K., and the school has just bagged a floor of the Shard – London’s most dazzling office block – as a teaching venue.
While some 70 international students study in Warwick’s full-time MBA program, the school’s blended learning option accommodates nearly 500 – and at any one time the business school might have 1500 online students on its books. Like most business schools, it has experienced a surge in demand for online delivery. The Economist ranks Warwick’s distance learning MBA top in the U.K.
And that is something that Taylor plans to build upon. He believes that digital delivery will filter through to face-to-face teaching, too. “It’s my firm belief that all delivery will be blended in the future – even residential courses will have digitization of core elements.” Warwick is currently looking into digital innovations such as studying “real time” business scenarios rather than relying on historical case studies.
“Students can follow events on a screen as they happen and think through a business problem rather than follow a fixed case study,” envisions Taylor, who also expects fewer lectures “to bleary kids at 9 a.m.” in the future (the school has a strong undergraduate programme too); with some core elements delivered digitally. “This is by no means to reduce the face-to-face contact, but to make it a far richer experience,” says Taylor. “We’ll be looking at the latest research in behavioural science and gaming technology to understand how to hold people’s attention and get them to absorb information.”
SOME UNUSUAL CHOICES IN MOOCS TO ADVERTISE THE SCHOOL’S DIFFERENCES
Some digital interaction will also school students in the soft skills of managing and working in remote teams – something he realized was in high demand during his years at BlackRock. Warwick has already cut its teeth on MOOCs (massive open online courses), collaborating with the U.K. platform FutureLearn. Last year, the business school launched the first MOOC at the University of Warwick, a course that also says something about the unusual nature of this business school: “The Mind is Flat: The Shocking Shallowness of Human Psychology.” A third MOOC is in the pipeline – this one will cover big data, and the school offers a respected MSc in data analytics.