Kellogg: king of business schools

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The Independent Online
HARVARD, Stanford, Wharton and Columbia are American business schools that have long been familiar names in Britain. But they have been consistently outranked in recent years by an institution with a much lower profile.

Unknown as it may be in Britain, the J L Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, near Chicago, is attracting a lot of attention in the United States.

This autumn will see the publication of the Business Week biannual survey of the leading business schools. And all eyes will be on Kellogg, because it has topped the table since the exercise began in 1988.

Such success is no accident. Dean Donald Jacobs, the 'dean of deans' of the business school circuit on account of his two decades in the post, has purposely set about raising the institution's standards during his tenure, by attracting top staff.

The position of the campus - on the lakeside away from the crime-ridden Chicago city centre, but close enough to forge relationships with the many businesses based there - has obviously played a part. But much is also down to the donations that have helped raise the number of endowed chairs from two to nearly 50. The best known is international marketing professor, Philip Kotler.

Although it has no direct links with the breakfast cereals maker, the school has received a dollars 10m ( pounds 6.6m) donation from the John and Helen Kellogg Foundation, set up by John L Kellogg, the son of the founder of the Kellogg Company.

One obvious distinction between it and other business schools is that Kellogg offers a Master of Management rather than an MBA qualification. But perhaps more important is the James L Allen Center, which was built at about the same time as the school changed its name.

The executive training centre is designed as a bridge between academe and business - a place where, in the words of Dean Jacobs: 'They tell us if the research makes any sense.'

While such clear links with the world that they are ostensibly seeking to serve have become commonplace for British business schools, they are unusual in the US. And these and similar moves have led to criticism from other schools.

The signs are, however, that they have found favour with students and employers. In the early 1990s, when business school applications fell overall, those to Kellogg's went up. The school claims that almost 100 per cent of students find jobs quickly, and in the industries and on the salaries they are looking for.

Among the successful alumni are William Smithburg, head of the Quaker Oats Company, while recent students have included a former major league baseball player, a female coastguard officer and a Russian aerospace engineer. As part of what it claims is a greater-than-average commitment to internationalism, the school is also consciously seeking more applicants from the UK.

In this effort to better prepare students for the real world, Kellogg - which has a particularly strong reputation in marketing, but is growing in finance and strategy - has long placed an emphasis on teamwork and producing all-rounders. Student involvement in running the school even extends to a role in the admissions procedure.

Though long in the job, Dean Jacobs shows no sign of complacency. He wrote recently that just as businesses were changing quickly, so schools had to: 'Educating managers to work in a competitive, changing environment requires a curriculum that is the product of continuous alteration.'

(Photograph omitted)