London Business School Dean Andrew Likierman On Key Challenges

LondonfullpixThat is not only true in the academic experience, but also in physical interactions, Likierman says: “In a typical study group, you’ll have group members from every part of the world. On top of that, London is now a truly global city in all aspects of life, where it used to be seen as mostly a global financial center.” The tech sector, for example, has found its European home in London, as have multi-billionaires coming from places as diverse as India, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.

Yet selling London as an MBA destination hasn’t been an easy task for the 70-year old Likierman. He became dean in the most turbulent of recent times, 2009, when the global financial crisis was in full development. A year in his tenure, jobs in the “City”, London’s financial heart, dropped to 636,000, or more than 50,000 less than in 2007. To add to that, in 2012 the U.K. tightened its visa regulations for foreign students, ending the favorable regime under which students were allowed to stay in the U.K. to look for work.

DEAN SAYS THE CITY’S FINANCE JOBS ARE BACK TO PRE-CRISIS LEVELS

But Likierman clearly believes the best defense is a good offense. During the economic down years, he introduced several new programs, such as the post-college Master in Management – and more recently, a joint master’s program with Chinese Fudan University – and increased the MBA class with a few hundred students. Enrollment from certain countries (mostly outside of the EU) did fall, but was made good by applications from others.

Now, also the job future for students looks brighter, says Likierman. “The City’s financial jobs are back to where they were before the crisis.” At the end of 2013, City finance jobs reached their pre-crisis level, and the year-on-year new job opportunities in the City rose by 32% in July 2014.

The next challenge is already knocking on the school’s door, and it’s called the internet. How does the British knight look towards the next big thing in education?

MOOCS ARE VIEWED LARGELY AS A PLATFORM TO TARGET PRE-MBA STUDENTS

“We see it as an opportunity, no question about it,” the dean says. “We see it as having potential for people to find out what we do and prepare before they to come in, and a way to offer education to our alumni afterwards. In terms of MOOCS, we want to offer individual courses for free, not for assessment. It won’t be for certification.”

In that regard, Likierman sees MOOCS mostly as a platform to target pre-MBAs. And he does not believe that online education will not ever replace the classroom experience, as it has to a certain extent in say, the newspaper industry or the music industry.

“There is an important difference between newspapers and management education,” says Likierman. “If I look at [reading a newspaper], it’s a passive experience. The essence of what we’re doing, is active. The fact that students can talk to each other is crucial for what we offer on campus. There are also a huge number of clubs on campus, as well as many visiting speakers. And then there is London.”

WE WILL DO BOTH THINGS: CLASSROOM LEARNING AND ONLINE LEARNING

Still, the gentleman Likierman is careful not to speak badly of online education. “We don’t say: we’re bricks and mortar, and the alternative is inferior. Rather, we will do both things: brick and mortar will continue to have an advantage and we will capture it. Online education will also have an advantage. Only it won’t be the same.”

Taken together though, it doesn’t feel like LBS has – or at least, is ready to share – an extensive online education policy. For sure, it won’t be one that includes LBS in your curriculum when getting an MBA online for free. And sometimes actions speak louder than words: of its £100m fundraising efforts, the lion’s share, £40m will go to a new physical building. “New technology for new thinking”, the fund’s technology oriented arm, will get £4m – ten times less.

However the online education theme may play out, Sir Andrew Likierman remains bullish on his city, his school, and mostly, the future generation. So at the end of our conversation, he shared with us his most important bits of advice for people in their twenties, based on his own experience.

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.