The MBA Gatekeeper At London B-School

The Financial Times ranks London Business School the best B-school in the world.

The Financial Times ranks London Business School the best B-school in the world.

Fewer than half of the 2,500 people who apply to LBS are invited for interview, and roughly half of those are offered places; nobody gets in without a grilling. By Simpson’s admission, the interview–initially conducted by alumni–can be grueling. “If you are sitting with someone for two hours or more, they will get through to you.” Alumni then feed back their recommendations to the admissions committee who don’t always follow them, says Simpson; occasionally the team will conduct a further phone or face-to-face interview “to plug any gaps.”

LBS has cut the number of essays required from five to two with an optional extra question – what else should the school know about you – and this is often the toughest and most telling, says Simpson. “Applicants’ interpretation of this question – what they see fit to tell us – is as important as the content.”

While the odd applicant has been known in interview to get the name of the school wrong, interviewees are most often polished, but LBS wants to see evidence of meticulous research that goes beyond information in the brochures. “We do think we are offering something different – a global education, a collaborative environment — so we are looking for ways applicants can contribute. We want to know they’ve even thought about what clubs and conferences they’ll attend so we can see they are really committed. We know they’re looking at other top schools.”


It’s been four years since LBS last overhauled the MBA program after gaining feedback from students; as a result students can choose to complete the program within 15 months – although around 90% still opt to take the full 20 months. While the next MBA review isn’t due for a couple of years, incremental changes are afoot. New electives in healthcare, social media and banking have been added, more faculty have joined the school and new clubs in healthcare and energy are thriving. In the next month or so LBS will announce new venues for the global business experience – an immersive week currently spent in the U.S., Africa, Hong Kong, India and Turkey, which will remain in place for 2015/2016. “We’re likely to increase the overall number in the next two years; we’ll retain some, lose one or two. This is a really exciting area of development.”

About a third of the class exchange with international business schools. U.S .institutions remain among the most popular with Berkeley-Haas topping the list, but increasingly students are looking at Asian schools, especially within China, says Simpson. “It’s a competitive process to get on an exchange; places tend to go to those who do well academically and can explain how the exchange will fit their career plans.”  Like many top schools, LBS is building relations in China, and has partnered with China’s Fudan University to create a joint master’s program.

As one of the largest U.K. schools, LBS is preparing to get even bigger in 2017 when a new building to provide extra teaching space and room to expand comes on stream. “Whether we grow our numbers gradually or take on a whole new class at once depends on the applicant pool but we expect to be around 475,” says Simpson.


While recruitment figures from LBS are famously healthy – 96% of MBA students received a job offer three months after graduation with a mean salary of £74,950 – latest figures show a surge in recruitment from the corporate sector, with 43% of 2013 graduates finding work in that sector, up from 35% the year before. Technology and telecommunication companies – Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Samsung – play a big part, and the latest figures are looking strong, says Simpson.

And for a school renowned for finance, LBS is also proud of the support it gives entrepreneurs; with a core class during the first year and a healthy portfolio of choices in the second. Both finance and entrepreneurism are the most popular electives. “In fact you could opt to solely study entrepreneurship in the second year,” says Simpson. Some MBA students turn down the £1,000 a week summer internships in favor of LBS’ entrepreneurship summer school, which allows students to road test a business idea.  There’s also a sought-after incubator unit which accepts select students upon graduation, with the offer of LBS’ facilities and support from investors, faculty and seasoned entrepreneurs. “What many students don’t realise is that you can get entrepreneurship visas to stay on in the U.K. upon graduation even without sponsorship from a large corporation,” says Simpson – and LBS works with U.K. visa authorities to select student eligible for an application.

And as the next applications deadline looms in January 2015, Simpson urges prospective candidates to do more than look at the website. “Do your research – what do we do well, what do you want more of? If you can’t visit, find an alum to have coffee with. Make an effort to discover the beating heart of the school.”


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