London (Ontario) Calling: Canada’s Ivey School Picks LBS’s Julian Birkinshaw As Next Dean

Julian Birkinshaw is the new dean of Ivey Business School at Western University in Canada

Julian Birkinshaw has spent the last quarter-century at London Business School. His next home will be a smaller London an ocean away.

On Thursday (February 8), Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada named Birkinshaw its next dean, effective August 1. What Birkinshaw loses in urbanity, he gains in familiarity: The long-time professor of strategy and entrepreneurship earned both an MBA, in 1991, and a Ph.D. in business administration, in 1995, from Ivey.

He also met his wife Laura there.

“Doing my MBA at Ivey was very formative,” Birkinshaw says in the announcement of his appointment. “I loved it.”


Birkinshaw, who is also currently vice dean at London Business School, joined LBS as an assistant professor in April 1999 and became a full professor with tenure in 2004. The native of Hexham in Northumberland, Great Britain is the author of 15 books and more than 90 scholarly papers, as well as the winner of multiple academic awards and honors, including the 2022 Harvard Business Review Prize for his article How Incumbents Survive and Thrive, an analysis of the impact of technological disruption on corporate stability. He holds honorary degrees from Copenhagen Business School and Stockholm School of Economics, and he is a Fellow of the British Academy, Strategic Management Society, and the (American) Academy of Management. He regularly ranks amongst the Thinkers50 list of global management thinkers.

In short, in the words of Western President Alan Shepard, Birkinshaw is “an internationally renowned scholar in business research and education,” whose “expertise on innovation, digital transformation, and the agility of large multinational firms will be invaluable” to Ivey and Western.

Birkinshaw replaces Ivey Dean Sharon Hodgson, who retires on June 30. He goes from one of the largest B-schools in the world to one that is smaller by a third: LBS has nearly 2,400 students across all programs; the Ivey School has about 1,600. In Poets&Quants‘ 2024 ranking of full-time MBA programs at international business schools, LBS ranked 4th, while Ivey was 25th. In The Financial Times’ 2023 global ranking of business schools, LBS ranked 16th and Ivey was 84th. (FT’s new ranking is out next week.)


There are advantages to the change in scenery. LBS is an independent business school, unattached to a larger university, and “If you want to teach about climate change, you don’t have the environmental sciences. If you want to teach about artificial intelligence, you don’t have computer scientists. I’m excited Ivey is part of a full-fledged university, with experts in these areas,” Birkinshaw says.

It was as a student at Ivey that Birkinshaw first became “a believer in innovation and agility,” according to the Ivey news release, which he sees as key to the future of business education. That’s evident in his track record: At LBS, he helped steer the creation of the school’s master’s in management program in 2010 and a master’s in analytics management in 2019. Birkinshaw is also credited with leading the school’s digital development in the years leading up to 2020, helping to create a suite of online courses that kept LBS students learning in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic — driven by his belief that B-schools must embrace, and lead, change in a time of rapid disruption.

Now he takes that belief across the Atlantic, where Ivey, which uses case-based teaching, presents what he calls “opportunities to evolve the world of business education.” Birkinshaw’s new academic home, which recently celebrated its centennial and is currently rolling out major changes as part of a new strategic plan, “is in a better place to deliver because the school has always been about leadership,” he says. “Using the case method puts the student in the shoes of the decision-maker, asking them to take on the complexities of being a leader.

“What excites me most about Ivey is what I experienced in terms of my learning about the business world — a commitment to a pedagogy that helps people understand the world of business properly, and to good quality research, which also influences the world of practice. Those are values I’ve held and pushed for throughout my career and are central to what Ivey has always done.”

Nor does the prospect of being at a smaller school, in a much smaller town, trouble Birkinshaw. “I’m eager to help consolidate Ivey’s position as the number-one business school in Canada,” he says, “and to raise its prominence globally. Ivey really helped shape my worldview, so the opportunity to help craft the school’s next stage of development is hugely exciting.”


In December 2023, as the new year loomed, Birkinshaw shared with P&Q his hopes for 2024: “The economic, geopolitical and environmental challenges witnessed in 2023 are showing no signs of abating. Consequently, the overall landscape in which business schools will be operating in 2024 is likely to remain unsettled. The global cost of living crisis is still biting for many. Conflicts are fuelling humanitarian crises on a significant scale. Extreme weather events across the globe are demonstrating the climate emergency. All will continue to demand attention in 2024.

“Our students are the business leaders of tomorrow. We need to help them make sense of the pressing issues facing society – sustainability, social inequality, technological disruption — and give them the tools to help them find solutions. We also need to instil a sense of ambition in them — a courage to take responsibility for what needs to be done, rather than allowing others to set the agenda. In short, we want our students to become positive agents of change. We need leaders who understand the way business impacts the world and are willing to be part of the solution. After all, there is no Planet B.”

Birkinshaw has touched on these issues throughout his career, including during a “fireside chat” as part of P&Q’s CentreCourt event in June 2023. In a discussion with Matt Symonds, he spoke at length about how B-school students can change the world for the better. Watch the interview below.

Fireside Chat With London Business School Leadership


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