Meet The Oxford Saïd MBA Class Of 2017

Amphitheatre at Saïd Business School


By the numbers, the big takeaway from the Class of 2017 involves the percentage of women. “In a year when the United Kingdom saw the appointment of its second female Prime Minister (an Oxford graduate, as was Margaret Thatcher),” Harvey notes, “we are proud to have raised the percentage of future female leaders in our MBA class of 2017 from 31% to 36%. Keeping up momentum on this is a priority for us as a school. A main contributor to this growth is the school’s relationship with the Forte Foundation, which supports women in business and education, and hosts events and conferences targeted towards engaging with and supporting women pre and post MBA.”

True to the spirit of the program, Saïd boasts the highest percentage of international students at 94%, edging out INSEAD, Cambridge, and IE Business School for top honors. At the same time, average GMATs climbed two points to 692, with the median reaching 700. Overall, scores ranged from 550 to 790, with the program including students from 54 different nations.

In recent years, the program has grown by a third, peaking at 327 students in the 2017 cohort. For Tufano, one of the signature achievements during his five year tenure has been the growth of the Oxford 1+1 MBA, a two-year program where students can match a Saïd MBA with master’s degree in over two dozen disciplines. “This powerful combination allows students to gain deep knowledge and expertise in specialist fields, as well as developing a comprehensive understanding of business, exceptional leadership skills and practical experience,” Tufano explains. In February, this 1+1 program was further strengthened by an injection of £3.7 million dollars into the Oxford Pershing Square Graduate Scholarship. “This customised, fully funded, two-year path eclipses all others,” Tufano adds. “It enables amazing individuals to make an outstanding impact on the world.”


University Church of St Mary the Virgin at the University of Oxford

Considering Saïd’s penchant for ground-breaking curriculum, it should come as no surprise that the program devotes heavy resources to entrepreneurship. One unique wrinkle is the Oxford LaunchPad, an incubator where students from across the university collaborate on new ventures. Students can also complete an Entrepreneurship Project, which begins at ideation and culminates with pitches delivered to venture capitalists. At the Entrepreneurship Center, MBA candidates can also join the Venture Idea Exploration Workshop (VIEW), where they explore ideas and launch businesses under the watchful eye of faculty and fellow entrepreneurs. Thanks to such investments, 12% of the 2015 started companies immediately after graduation, more than double the typical business school average.

However, the crown jewel of Saïd’s entrepreneurial menu is unquestionably the Skoll Centre, perhaps the world’s top venue for programs, research and events related to advancing social entrepreneurship. “Through the Skoll Foundation, it provides up to five fully-funded MBA scholarships for entrepreneurs who have set up or have been working in entrepreneurial ventures with a social purpose, and who wish to improve their knowledge of market-oriented practices so they can be more effective in their subsequent social change pursuits,” Tufano beams. “The Skoll Centre fosters innovative social transformation through education, research, and collaboration and seeks to provide high potential individuals with the inspiration, knowledge, skills and networks they need to pursue careers of positive social impact.”

It’s helpful to think of Saïd as a program deeply embedded in a much larger school. It’s an easy sell for admissions. Who wouldn’t be stirred by the aura of the “city of dreaming spires” that harmoniously blends seemingly every British architectural movement. Gyred by pastoral hills, there is a certain romance to the misty footpaths along the River Thames or the reverent courtyards and cloisters that evoke the seriousness and majesty of the Union Jack.


Here, Saïd MBA candidates must commit to one of the 38 distinct “colleges,” which include students and faculty from every discipline on campus. In the process, they develop their own unique identity —and an enviable network to match. “The college system at Oxford (think Harry Potter houses, where your social and sport life is in your house, while your academic work happens in a mixed environment outside) means that you share meals with people with entirely intellectual perspectives than you,” explains Doshi. “In my college, I’ve met students in music, linguistics, medieval history, astrophysics, applied math, theology, and computer science. Many of these people actually share my interests, while arriving there from their own unique direction.”

Bridge of Sighs at the University of Oxford

Such an atmosphere only reinforces Saïd’s mission to produce well-rounded, inventive, and globally-versed graduates capable of working across cultures, disciplines, and complexities. “The best innovation happens at the juxtaposition of unalike ideas, and this university breeds that mix,” adds Doshi. “In many business schools, not only do the students generally come from just a couple traditional industries, but the business school itself is often isolated from the rest of the university. Not so here. Oxford Saïd is intensely, proudly, and intentionally interdisciplinary, and all of the MBAs get to reap the benefits.”


Johnson Blair equates this unique set up to a “second home” that reflects her aspirations. “For me, Lincoln College offers the opportunity to competitively row on the Thames, frequently dine in a hall built in the 1400s, and to develop friendships with graduate students from across the university. I feel the MBA from Said isn’t just a business school experience, but integration into the greatest university in the world.”

For Tufano, himself a member of Balliol College, the Saïd MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to follow in the footsteps of Adam Smith, C.S. Lewis, or Sir Walter Raleigh (or fictional counterparts like James Bond, Professor X, or Captain Hook). “All our students become members of the Oxford Union, the historic debating society that has played host to so many fascinating figures from all walks of life including notable speakers such as the Dalai Lama, former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, author Robert Greene, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We begin our year with a debate on the purpose of business itself. The ability to analyse, argue encase and listen to the views of others is a key skill for any leader. No MBA student at Oxford leaves without understanding this.”

Despite being a one-year program, students can technically complete an internship through a summer project, where they spend six weeks producing a global consulting project on behalf of a corporate partner, start-up or non-profit. In other words, students enjoy the best of both worlds: a short break from their career that doesn’t sacrifice hands-on experience. That was critical for students like Ewen. “I did not want to be out of the job market for 2 years both from a funding perspective as well and a general career progression perspective,” he says.


Saïd Students

So what does the Class of 2017 plan to do after graduating next September? It boils down to three words: Make an impact. Sanghvi, for example, plans to take what he learns at Saïd back to his native India to combat environmental degradation. Noting that his nation includes 13 of the 20 most polluted cities while trailing behind in renewable energy, Sangvi comes to Oxford hoping to answer a series of questions. “How do we make affordable energy accessible to everyone? How do we continue catering to the burgeoning energy demands of our population, while ensuring environment sustainability? How can retail markets and increasingly global manufacturing bring cost of clean energy generation down? How can behavioral psychology be leveraged to promote clean energy? I want to help answer some of these questions and use business to address one of India’s energy problems. I aspire to help make clean energy much more mainstream in India than it is today.”

For Johnson Blair, an MBA represents a major transition after controlling her time and schedule as an independent consultant. Instead of committing to a specific path, she hopes to live in the moment with an eye towards entrepreneurship. “Through collaborating with graduate student researchers within the university interested in taking their promising technologies further, I hope to conceptualize and build products and services the world needs. Foremost, this is a year of exploration. Surrounded by a diverse cohort, peers at my college spanning all disciplines that’s famous international visiting speakers, and unparalleled faculty and staff support, I am open to what the year inspires.”

In contrast, Ewen hopes to match a sense of purpose with a job. However, like many MBAs, he is also looking for a transformation of sorts. “I want to be a changed person by the end of the course. I would like there to be a distinct change in who I am when this year is over. That doesn’t mean I need to be a completely different person but I would like to be a better person in some way or other.” Gromotka is also looking to get better. In her case, she is hoping that her peers recognize her growth by paying her the ultimate compliment: “She’s going to do great things one day.”


To read profiles of incoming Saïd students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.

Sagar Doshi / Long Grove, IL

Kyle Ewen / Johannesburg, South Africa

Ndakuna Fonso Amidou / Bamenda, Cameroon

Katharina Gromotka / Hamburg, Germany

Laura Johnson Blair / Upper Arlington, OH

John Kakungulu Walugembe / Kampala, Uganda

Taylor Markham / Phoenix, AZ

Ana María Ñungo / Bogota, Colombia

Arfa Rehman / Aligarh, India

Naman Sanghvi / Mumbai, India

Matthias Zwanzger / Santiago, Chile

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