Bath business school's new dean tells Kathy Harvey about his aspirations (and clock collection)

It's now more than six months since Andrew Pettigrew ordered the removal van to transport his collection of antique clocks from Warwick's university campus outside Coventry to their new home in Jane Austen country. The attractions of Bath, with its antique shops and regency architecture, undoubtedly played a part in luring Professor Pettigrew (he is a member of the Antique Horological Society and admits spending weekends scouting round antique shops with his wife) away from Warwick to act as the figurehead for Bath's business school.

Location aside, the former Professor of Strategy and Organisation at Warwick Business School says the dean's role at Bath represented a challenge which he felt he had to grasp. "I've done almost everything in my career apart from being a dean." Despite a long, distinguished career, he feels no desire to slow down. "It's not in my nature to sit back and say I've achieved enough."

At 60, Andrew Pettigrew - one of the UK's most renowned management academics - can already claim to have achieved more than most. He has worked with London Business School, Yale and Harvard, recently becoming the first non-American to be appointed a distinguished scholar to the United States Academy of Management. At Warwick, his research with chief executives and their boards gave him a high profile and an impressive list of contacts in the corporate world. So, when he decided to swap an academic role for what is essentially a chief executive's post, more than a few eyebrows were raised in surprise.

Business school deans are seen increasingly as corporate cheerleaders for their organisations, valued as much for their ability to drum up funds and corporate support as for their academic record. While acknowledging the importance of this aspect of the job, Andrew Pettigrew is convinced that an academic profile is still part of the package. "Fundraising is vital but I wouldn't like that to be the one thing I was remembered for. If I could sum it up I suppose I'd say that I want Bath to make an impact through international excellence."

Bath is already a blue chip management school. Its undergraduate programmes attract some of the brightest students, and offer exchanges with an impressive list of foreign universities. Established in the late 1960s, the management school has around 400 undergraduate and a similar number of postgraduate students. The most recent Research Assessment Exercise awarded it a rating of 5a - just below the highest rating of 5*. Only three business schools - Warwick, London and Lancaster - have a 5* rating.

Andrew Pettigrew has his sights set firmly on winning this highest accolade for Bath during his tenure as dean. "There's no reason why we can't turn a good research school into an excellent one," he says. And he's also aware that commercially produced rankings are increasingly influential. Bath's MBA programme - taught in modular, part time and full time formats - appears in the Financial Times Top 100 ranking tables (ranked 95th in the world along with Ashridge) and its executive programme has also edged its way into the FT Top 50 global executive programmes. But, for a perfectionist like Professor Pettigrew, its position behind schools like Warwick, or Bradford clearly rankles. "We have to accept the realpolitik of the rankings. And we have to improve our position within them."

One of the targets for the year ahead is to see that the MBA programmes benefit from the successes of the undergraduate degrees. High-potential graduates who opt to spend three years at Bath studying for their first degree may be more inclined to look elsewhere for their MBA experience. But, by building Bath's international reputation for MBA courses, he hopes to attract more of them back. He also wants to build on what he describes as some of Bath's unsung achievements. "The culture among academics here is highly collaborative, with people willing to look across narrow boundaries. That's very important."

The school is already strong in areas like supply-chain management, marketing and purchasing and has strong connections with big public service employers like the NHS. A programme allowing engineers to progress to management qualifications is also seen by Professor Pettigrew as a key to building bridges across to other departments of the university. "We were among the first in the UK to look at the relationship between business and society through an MSC programme, something which Anita Roddick helped us launch a few years ago. Now we need to strengthen that area."

Bath is not the kind of management school you go to if you are hell-bent on a career as an investment banker - though the alumni list does have its fair share of these. It tends to attract a wide range of students from aerospace industries to finance and the public sector. Professor Pettigrew is happy with that. In the past few years, when jobs in the City have been harder to get, a broader portfolio is perhaps more of an advantage. Strengthening links with companies which have a Bath University connection is, he says, one way of ensuring that MBA graduates can make vital jobs contacts.

On the non-academic side, his priorities are to sing Bath's praises more forcefully where it matters, and to drum up enough money to build a new centre for MBA students within the Sixties campus - perched on top of a hill above the city. Location and facilities are, he argues, increasingly important for MBA students who pay £20,000 for the privilege of one year on campus.

Acknowledging that it won't be easy to boost research output and oversee the running of the business school, he has appointed a deputy dean (Professor Phillip Howell) to concentrate on day to day operations. This is probably a wise move, given that he has no intention of abandoning academic research himself. While anxious not to be typecast as a dyed-in-the-wool academic, he is adamant that his research profile will be important for Bath.

"I do want to hold on to my intellectual identity and I'll carry on the scholarly life," he says. His personal involvement may also attract some of his contacts from high profile US business schools to joint research projects and boost Bath's international profile. And then there is the lure of the spa town itself. American colleagues may find the combination of a sabbatical in Jane Austen territory, and the chance to work with an old friend of academic standing hard to resist.