Published April 10, 2008

London Business School eyes S'pore


(SINGAPORE) After making successful inroads into New York, Dubai and Hong Kong, London Business School (LBS) is now on the lookout for its next city to expand in, with Singapore emerging as one of the cities firmly on its radar.

The school's new dean, Robin Buchanan, said the Republic would be a 'natural fit' for LBS, seeing as how its global alumni already counts more than 300 Singaporeans in its ranks.

The most well-known of them, perhaps, is Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng, who studied at LBS on a government scholarship in 1977. He also sits on the school's global advisory board, which includes Banyan Tree Holdings executive chairman Ho Kwon Ping.

In an interview with BT during a recent visit to Singapore, Mr Buchanan, who assumed his post last September, said: 'We would want to (partner) a top local educational institution, one with very high quality and that's very serious. It wouldn't surprise me if, five years from now, there was some relationship with Singapore.'

One possible model that LBS could work with Singapore is to set up a joint degree programme, similar to what is already being done with the Columbia Business School, where students study part-time in both London and New York. Another way would be to have a tie-up where a local university would send their students to London and spend a semester there.

Expansion plans aside, Mr Buchanan - a former senior partner at the UK operations of business consultancy Bain & Company - wants to see the 43-year-old LBS become, and be regarded as, the pre-eminent global business school before his five-year term is up.

On the latest Financial Times rankings, LBS was placed second in the top 100 Global Master of Business Administration programmes, after the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Business School. It also finished runner-up in FT's top European Business Schools list, losing out to HEC School of Management in Paris.

But Mr Buchanan is not the least bit perturbed at playing the role of bridesmaid - for now, at least. 'A ranking is useful, but it shouldn't be what drives you. If you become driven by the rankings, it's a fundamental mistake. Every ranking system has its own methodologies. What if FT changed their system next year? Would LBS have to do something completely different then? We can't do that,' he said.

Incidentally, the only Singaporean university ranked in the FT top 100 Global MBA list is Nanyang Technological University, which took 46th place - its highest ever position.

For now, though, Mr Buchanan (a Harvard Business School graduate) knows he has big shoes to fill, being a non-academic taking LBS's top post - unlike the two previous deans, John Quelch and Laura Tyson.

What he hopes to bring to the table, however, is the 'corporate perspective', thanks to his 35 years of experience in the business world.

Mr Buchanan described his appointment as a 'healthy one', for LBS, or any other top business school for that matter, to 'move backwards and forwards between academics and businesspeople'.

'I think it would be a bad thing if business schools were ever run only by business people, or run only by academics. There has to be that diversity,' he said.