The MBA Gatekeeper At London B-School

MBA students outside London Business School

MBA students outside London Business School

“We have mid-Atlantic appeal,” says David Simpson, admissions director at London Business School. He means of course that LBS, ranked top among business schools outside the U.S., stands out by offering a program up to two years whereas European counterparts mostly stick to one. And when competing with the likes of Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton in the U.S., and closer to home Cambridge Judge, INSEAD in France or IESE in Spain, LBS leverages its location. “Our major differentiation comes from having a global learning community in a global city,” says Simpson.

Tucked away on the edge of leafy Regents Park in central London, LBS is conveniently down the road from the Boston Consulting Group, who alongside McKinsey & Company, regularly hire around two dozen MBA graduates every year. It’s the only UK school to feature in the top ten Financial Times’ global MBA rankings – this year overtaking Wharton for third place. A third of its cohort are women, and the average GMAT score is 700. Some 15% of students are North American, and this year’s students come from 62 different countries and have an average six years’ work experience.

Students have all the benefits of proximity to London’s financial centre, but increasingly to the boutique finance firms springing up, as London’s alternative investment community grows. And then there’s London’s busy technology start-up scene; more LBS graduates are finding work outside of the traditional stomping ground of finance and consulting. “There are big advantages for our students being in a city so diverse in terms of professional sectors,” says Simpson.


LBS Admissions Director David Simpson

s LBS Admissions Director David Simpson

While the admissions team won’t allow any one nationality to dominate, applications this year from Latin American countries have risen and students from those nations now make up 14% of the current 410-strong MBA group, with 22% in the school’s Masters in Finance program. Overall MBA applications are up 7% year on year and stronger again so far this year. In fact, LBS feels it’s weathered the economic upheavals of recent years well, working hard to sustain interest from major recruiters.

A long-time veteran at LBS, Simpson is fresh back from a trip from New York and Washington, DC, where the school is keen to lure the cream of applicants with a growing program of scholarships, international exchanges, visa support for entrepreneurs and a changing array of international study trips. He’s delighted a higher proportion of women apply from the U.S. and Canada – around 40% and 60% respectively – and this is reflected in the school’s annual intake.

And while LBS, like all business schools, wants to boost numbers of women applicants, it’s also keen to recruit outside of the typical business school hunting grounds of finance, consulting and engineering. “We wouldn’t have – say – 50% of students from an arts background; this is a business degree after all, but we do want a good number of people from arts, from law, and from the military to give us that mix.”

While LBS’s scholarship programme doesn’t match that of the top U.S. schools, the school is on a fundraising drive and has increased the amount of scholarship money from donors and alumni mostly offered on merit every year and plans further increases across all programs in the next couple of years, with some awards approaching full fees “which can be life changing,” says Simpson.


LBS will also offer sector scholarships for 2017, adds Simpson, in military, healthcare, energy, luxury and retail, as well as technology and engineering – areas which account for a recent growth in applications and where LBS is keen to recruit more. “We want to continue to attract people from technology backgrounds, and support people who might not have considered MBAs,” says Simpson. “This year the focus is to have enough scholarships to convert the best applicants.” There’ll also be a new Nestle emerging markets scholarship for women. LBS also recruits actively among the armed forces, and has been known to wait until an applicant’s submarine has surfaced in some part of the world in order to arrange an interview. “This year 64% of MBAs from a military background got a scholarship,” says Simpson.  LBS also partners with innovative funding scheme Prodigy Finance; a facility set up by MBA graduates from INSEAD, to fund would-be international business postgraduates.

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