London Business School Dean Andrew Likierman On Key Challenges

London Business School Dean Sir Andrew Likierman

What to conclude when an elite business school dean says getting a certificate in accounting – not an MBA  – was about the best thing he did in his early twenties? In defense of the dean in question, Sir Andrew Likierman of London Business School, his school was yet to be founded when he was in college.

Yet it’s illustrative of his mentality, and the one he likes to see in his faculty and students: one that embraces an eclectic world view, where there is more than one truth.

The school enrolled 409 full-time MBA students in its Class of 2015 for which it received more than 3,000 applications. The average GMAT for the class is 695, with 5.5 years of work experience and an average age of 29. Roughly 69 nationalities are represented in the class, with 17% of the students from North America, the third largest group, after Europe, which accounts for 37% of the class., and Asia, at 24%.

MAKING THE SCHOOL’S FINANCIAL MODEL MORE ROBUST A KEY PRIORITY FOR THE DEAN

The Americans hail from a wide variety of employers, ranging from Accenture, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Deloitte, to Fannie Mae, General Mills, and Wells Fargo. None of the American students in the Class of 2015 are from McKinsey, BCG, Bain or Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

Poets&Quants sat down for an interview with Sir Andrew to discuss LBS’s track record, the road ahead, and his personal advice for twenty-somethings today.

We’re not even five minutes in our conversation, and Dean Likierman – or Sir Andrew, as he is formally known – turns to the City’s favorite topic: finance. “Making the school’s financial model robust is one of the things I’m most proud of during my tenure as dean of LBS,” says Sir Andrew.

SCHOOL SIGNIFICANTLY TRAILS MAJOR U.S. RIVALS IN AVAILABLE RESOURCES

Last year, the dean launched an ambitious fund raising goal for LBS: to raise £100m (then $160m) by 2018. One year in, the counter stands at £68m, says Likierman, “and I hope it will have reached £69m by the time this article appears.” (note: it has, one week after the interview)

It might seem strange, at first sight, that an academically oriented dean such as Likierman – his teaching career at LBS spans four decades – would call fund raising his biggest achievement. But while LBS’ MBA is often ranked number one outside of the U.S., it is no match for the Harvards, Whartons and Stanfords of this world in terms of its financing. Harvard’s endowment stands at $2.9 billion, placing it in an orbit not reachable for LBS, which had an endowment of less than $60 million before the school launched its fundraising campaign.

That matters, says Likierman, “because we need to be able to attract the best talent, whether students or professors, and for students we’re competing with some institutions that can often offer much more money than we do.” Indeed, while LBS offers about 25% of its students scholarships, top U.S. institutions offer up to 70% of their students scholarship or loans.

‘WE REPRESENT A GLOBAL VIEW OF MANAGEMENT THAT IS DIFFICULT TO GET IN THE U.S.’

Even in absolute terms, students pay more for studying at LBS than they did before. Tuition has risen almost 100% in dollar terms versus the year 2000, and by about 20% in just the last two years. An LBS student paying full tuition – the vast majority  – pays $106,000 tuition for the 15- to 21-month program. At Harvard, the sticker price is only slightly more over two years at $112,000, but the average discount through scholarship there is more than 50%. HBS handed out a record $32 million in MBA scholarships alone in the last academic year.

But tuition and scholarships, clearly, aren’t all what matters to American MBA students. Since a few years there are more students from the U.S. than from the U.K. enrolled in the school’s full-time MBA program. “And that continues to be true this year,” Likierman says proudly after manually checking a print out of his enrollment statistics – once an accountant, always an accountant.

Why is it then that so many Americans find their way to London, when they have great schools at home? “We represent a global view of management, that is sometimes more difficult to get in the U.S.” Likierman argues. “Some schools have a model that regards the U.S. as the norm, and other countries and management practices as a variant of the norm. For us, it’s easier to take insights from all over the world.”

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.