How The London School of Economics Is Muscling Into Business Education

LSE can use its brand to challenge LBS and Imperial College. But don't call it a 'business school'

Over the past decade, the London School of Economics, one of the UK's most prestigious universities, has been quietly building a business school.

And although late to the party, Professor Alexander (Sandy) Pepper, the school's softly-spoken program director, believes the LSE can make its mark.

"The LSE has a fantastic international brand," says Sandy, a Brit who joined LSE during the global financial crisis from the consultancy firm PwC. "And London is a fantastic city," he adds.

But he is vexed by the LSE being called a business school.

The Department of Management is different from a classic business school and focuses on political and social capital. This summer, for example, LSE launched the MSc in Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship — which the school says will include elements of management, psychology, sociology, economics and anthropology.

"The LSE has a very strong tradition of working for the betterment of society," says Sandy. "That’s part of what we regard as our competitive advantage."

The location of the LSE emphasises the point. It is just off The Strand, sandwiched between the City of London and the Palace of Westminster.

Sandy says: "People joke that graduates go out of the building and turn left because they want to go into the City and get rich, or they turn right because they want to go into politics and save the world."

But Brexit threatens to level London's strengths.

Academics fear that the UK's exit from the EU will damage the standing of Britain's top universities. For example, it will make it harder for them to attract international students and faculty. Funding for research, for which LSE is highly ranked, is also under threat.

"The school is concerned about it," says Sandy, with feeling. "We have very international student and faculty cohorts. If the immigration regime got tighter, clearly that would have implications."

So far, Brexit has not damaged demand for LSE's management masters programs. The Department of Management offers a two-year Global Master's in Management, a 12-month Master's in Management, and a three-year-long Executive Global Master's in Management, designed for experienced working professionals. In addition, the LSE runs a suite of specialist Msc programs in marketing, digital innovation, human resources and more.

"Application numbers for our one year program are extremely healthy," says Sandy, refusing to reveal more other than to say: "We are charged by the school to grow — they see management as a growth area."

There are currently no plans for an MBA program. "We’ve talked about it. But at the moment there are no plans to do that because the MBA market is a pretty saturated one," Sandy says, flatly.

The LSE is targeting professionals who have completed undergraduate degrees, but who want to study business and management before entering the job market. "When they do a Masters in Management, it makes them competitive in the marketplace."

The competition for students comes from local rivals, London Business School and Imperial College.

Sandy says the LSE's differentiating factor is the focus on social science. "Part of our strategy is that we are not a 'business school'," he says.

Like it or not, the tag may stick.

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