When Christoph H. Loch was named dean of the University of Cambridge Judge Business School in 2011, the school’s 12-month-long MBA program was ranked 26th best in the world by The Financial Times. In his inaugural blog post as dean, Loch wrote about “the lessons of the latest FT MBA rankings” at the suggestion of Judge’s alumni advisory council.
For someone who had been the former dean of INSEAD’s PhD program, he demonstrated an uncanny knowledge of the inner workings of the FT’s methodology. “The FT rankings are most heavily influenced by high alumni salaries and high salary jumps after completing the MBA,” Loch reflected. “So if we really wanted to increase our rankings, we could close down our arts-management and not-for-profit specializations, and force every student to major in more traditional areas with a view to finding a high-paying job in finance or consulting. And we could also balloon our PhD program, irrespective of quality, because size gets a good rating in this metric.”
But Loch insisted that a fundamental part of the Cambridge culture is to define success far more broadly than through salaries. “We will continue to take pride in educating talented students who go into arts management and non-profit organizations or start their own company and take a hit on short-term income,” he insisted.
UNDER LOCH, CAMBRIDGE JUDGE HAS MADE UNUSUAL RANKINGS PROGRESS
Four years later, Loch has stayed true to his word. But under his leadership, the school also has made unusual progress on the FT list, climbing to its highest rank ever this year to place 13th best in the world, a rise of 13 places in just four years. That makes Judge’s MBA the highest ranked one-year program in the United Kingdom. And not too many grads are taking a hit on their short-term income. Judge MBAs earn more money today than they did in 2011, and they also rate their career progress and the degree’s value for money significantly higher, respectively 12th vs. 32nd and fifth vs. 22nd.
For a school that only graduated its first MBA class in 1994, it’s an impressive showing, largely because the bulk of the school’s graduates take higher paying jobs in consulting and finance. Some 26% of Judge’s latest graduating class went the consulting route, while 20% landed jobs with financial institutions. Not surprisingly, the two highest paid graduates took jobs in finance, with a base salary of $228,881, and consulting, with a $222,103 base. And though only 5% of the class ventured into public sector jobs, Loch seems to be open to the notion that more should pursue those roles—even if it hurts the school’s future rankings.
“We are moving into a direction that says we are no longer bent on moving people into finance and consulting,” insists Loch. “I tell our students to go out there and do something extraordinary. We want you to make a difference, We don’t care about your title or how much money you make. Rankings place a lot of weight on salary so we can’t completely go that way, but we are encouraging people to behave that way.”
‘I DIDN’T COME HERE IWTH THE CLAIM THAT WE NEED TO DO A REVOLUTION’
Loch, whose CV contains an MBA from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and a PhD from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, appears to adhere to a slow-and-steady philosophy of leadership. “I didn’t come here with the claim that we need to do a revolution and totally change things,” he says. “We have with all our might pushed things forward which were underway.”
As a first-time dean of a prominent business school who came from the outside, Loch has had to learn “to navigate the politics of a large university. It’s not like there were huge surprises but you just have to give it the time it takes to make a difference. A lot of the battle is just blocking and tackling. Sooner or later, things start to move. It’s just stubbornness.”
And he also has had to overcome the U.K. government’s restrictions on visas which made the country a less attractive place for international students to earn an MBA. “That was pretty much an example of the stupidity of government,” maintains Loch. “We were giving in to xenophobic tendencies in the population and reducing the dynamism of the British economy. The people who are coming here to study are not the riff raft who will be a burden on the social system. The government is under heavy pressure from an anti-immigration fringe party which is making advances so it is not making any corrections to this.”
BIG PRIORITIES: ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND ACADEMIC RESEARCH
Among the things that he has pushed in the past four years? Accelerate Cambridge, an incubator for new business ideas, has gotten a fast start under Loch, attracting millions of pounds in investment and as many as 50 startups in the accelerator. Only recently, the school announced that founders who received start-up grants from Judge have collectively raised more than £5 million in funding. The school, surrounded by science parks and innovation centers, is a beneficiary of its location in the so-called Cambridge Cluster or Silicon Fen, the most successful technology cluster in Europe.
“Entrepreneurship has existed as a practical lab,” says Loch. “We have 1500 high tech companies right here within 25 miles of Cambridge. So there are lots of companies that are interested and give these students something to do. They rub shoulders with people in these companies and see how they behave. Plus, in our accelerator people can get involved in social ventures or high tech startups. And then we have one of our concentrations on arts and museum management where they can then curate a large exhibition. On top of these two things there are these other opportunities to get their hands dirty.”
First and foremost, though, Loch is an academic who plays up the value of scholarly research as a means to gain street cred among the business school elites. “Our emphasis on doing rigorous research of the highest standards is rooted in practice,” he says. “We have pushed forward as much as we could on that, and we have gotten feedback that this is beginning to work.” He cites a report from the U.K’s Research Excellence Framework that showed that nearly nine out of ten (89 per cent) submissions from Judge were rated as world leading or internationally excellent. “We were rated the highest on impact for our research and No. 2 of all the business schools in the country. It was an endorsement of our strategy that we are doing research that matters. We are investing in all our graduate programs in order to increase the benefits for students and the caliber of students that are coming. Our focus on research excellence is the source for that.”