Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Chicago Booth | Mr. Healthcare PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
INSEAD | Mr. Product Manager
GMAT 740, GPA 63%
Kellogg | Ms. Sustainable Development
GRE N/A, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Finance
GMAT 750, GPA 3.0
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Kellogg | Mr. Concrete Angel
GRE 318, GPA 3.33
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
Harvard | Mr. Military Quant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare PE
GRE 340, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Ms. Female Sales Leader
GMAT 740 (target), GPA 3.45
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Kellogg | Ms. Big4 M&A
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Army Aviator
GRE 314, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. Gay Techie
GRE 332, GPA 3.88
INSEAD | Mr. INSEAD Aspirant
GRE 322, GPA 3.5
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
MIT Sloan | Ms. Rocket Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Army Engineer
GRE 326, GPA 3.89
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Salesman
GMAT 700, GPA 3.0
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Columbia | Mr. Energy Italian
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Quality Assurance
GMAT 770, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. African Energy
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
NYU Stern | Ms. Luxury Retail
GMAT 730, GPA 2.5
Stanford GSB | Ms. Russland Native
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Aerospace Engineer
GRE 327, GPA 3.92

Oxford’s Saïd Business School: Hardly A Stuffy Downton Abbey

The University of Oxford

The University of Oxford


Before taking the job as dean on July 1 of 2011, the Harvard professor says he spoke to many business executives, asking one key question. “What are the handful of things that will fundamentally alter business in 25 years?” The answers ranged from geopolitics and technology to demographic changes and natural resource scarcity.

“The next question I asked is, ‘As a business school should we teach any of this stuff?’ The answer is yes. Take demography. It was usually the first answer, with the aging of the population in the U.S., Western Europe, Japan, and China and how that will change patterns of consumption in real estate and health care. But no business schools teach demography. In some class, a school might do a few minutes on it. The problem is we don’t have demographic experts on the business school faculty.”

Tufano, however, went to Oxford’s other departments and cobbled together a digital course on Global Opportunities and Threats with curated content from experts all over the university. It has been introduced as a requirement in the MBA program. “It is a flipped course, with all the equivalent of classroom lectures and then there is a tutorial group with one faculty member and five students,” he says excitedly. “We have two modules a year and plan to add a new one with every new group of students, a deep dive into demography, big data, or water resources. Alumni can see all the papers the students have written. Our goal is to get the alumni to interact directly through the course.”

Adds MBA Director Brown, “The whole curriculum is built around what business is going to look like five or 20 years down the line and what do you need to think about that. How can you really be prepared to engage with stakeholders and others who will shape some of the issues like water shortage and demographic change.”


Then, there is his less original notion that a business school should be thinking not only about effective leadership but responsible leadership. “It always struck me as odd that only business school professionals think they have a view on this,” he says. “We have an entire university best known for its humanities so we asked them for help. We now run an elective program called Engaging with Humanities that is team taught by team business school professors, philosophers, historians, theologians, even an orchestra conductor. At Oxford, I can talk to the guy who is developing particle accelerators, a world famous doctor or an 18th century literature professor.”

An obvious obstacle in leveraging all of Oxford’s assets is the fact that Saïd’s MBA is only a one-year experience. Yet, Tufano insists that it doesn’t make all that much of a difference. “The two-year MBA programs are usually eight months times two,” he says. “We are 12 months, September to September. That last semester in two year programs is, shall we say, less intense. So I don’t find that there is a tremendous difference there.”

Brown also plays up the significantly lower opportunity costs. “The upside is that you’re out of work for only one year and you have one year of tuition,” she says. “The downside is it’s very intensive. If you don’t really know what you want out of an MBA, it can be difficult to jump into that experience. In the month of February, when it gets really dark and depressing, we get complaints and then they come out of it and they can’t believe all that they have accomplished in the year.”

When Tufano hits his four-year mark on July 1, he can sit back for a moment and enjoy all that he has accomplished at Oxford. But with a mind that keeps generating new ideas, he seems unlikely to do that. “I haven’t written off anything yet. We had an idea for a pre-internship program where we could help students have a different kind of work experience before they came. There is a lot of demand on the student side, but we have yet to figure out a way to tap employer interest.”


About The Author

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.