With its location in the heart of the City – London’s financial district – and just a few minutes from Shoreditch, the centre of London’s thriving start-up scene, it is natural that the Business School (formerly Cass) at City, University of London has evolved to focus on entrepreneurship and innovation. Access to both of these sides of London gives students what the school calls “a backstage pass” across the capital.
Such is its success tapping into this side of London that the Business School was recognised as the top UK school for entrepreneurship in Poets&Quants’ 2021 ranking — it was third in Europe, and 17th in the world.
From 2002 to 2020, the School was named Cass Business School following a donation from the Sir John Cass Foundation, an educational charity. In July 2020, the University took the decision to remove the Cass name following consultation about the fact that some of Sir John Cass’ wealth was obtained though his links to the slave trade and that this was incompatible with City’s values of diversity and inclusion.
Of course, the MBA teaches all the standard fare, and in its 12 months it zips through core courses, a Strategy Project, International Consulting Week and Professional Development Week between September and April. The time until August given over to electives, which include four aimed at entrepreneurs, including Capturing Value from Innovation, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and New Venture Creation.
A Business Mastery Project follows, which start-up minded students can use to develop a product, or formulate a business plan. Added to this is the opportunity to travel overseas for electives including Innovation and Technology Study Tour in Israel and Palestine, and two in Silicon Valley — At the Core of Entrepreneurship and Digital Innovation in Action.
The MBA is obviously not just for budding Elon Musks – 43 percent of graduates from the MBA that graduated in 2019 went into consulting and 29 percent into financial services. But, the School says, the entrepreneurial skills they learned on the MBA can of course be useful in a corporate setting too. And there’s always time to launch a start-up once those loans are paid off.
“There’s a huge interest from students figuring out how to launch things, and try things,” explains Costas Andriopoulos, Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “I believe that we’re different from others because we are very hands-on. We don’t focus so much on the business plan, and how to make money, we focus more on creating the product, we put emphasis on innovation.” That said, projects which do look viable can, and do, apply to our own accelerator.
Another USP for the Business School is that there is focus not only on new businesses that can make money, but can “make lives better”, adds Prof Andriopoulos. “That’s the other thing we focus a lot on: mission businesses. We focus a lot on purpose. We are looking a lot at the combination between getting a paycheck and at the same time doing good for the community or society.”
What is the Business School (formerly Cass) looking for in an MBA? “Curiosity, and using that curiosity to be creative,” says Prof Andriopoulos. “To be team-players, which means they have humility and ethics, to be analytical, to accepting feedback, and we want people who want to stretch themselves.”