Bradford University School of Management has two advantages over most of its competitors: age and experience. It is celebrating the 40th year of its foundation, though the magnificent neo-Gothic building which houses the School has an even longer history, having been built in 1874 by the architects who designed Bradford's Wool Exchange and City Hall.
Stuart Sanderson, associate dean for graduate programmes, argues that its longevity means that the school has built up a stock of expertise about students' expectations and aspirations and how to fulfil them. "The University's motto is 'Making knowledge work' and we aim to provide our graduates with deployable managerial and personal skills. Students are taught by people who are active in the outside world, and often by the person who wrote the book."
Bradford's dean, Professor Arthur Francis, who joined in 1998, has combined an academic career, previously at the University of Glasgow, Imperial College Management School and Nuffield College Oxford, with research into product innovation - notably a project with medical professionals on the development of a hip-replacement procedure. It's appropriate that he should join the uncompromisingly practical Bradford University.
He sees business schools such as Bath and Manchester as serious competitors along with major civic universities such as Leeds. But he is also keen to market Bradford as an international business school, pointing out the Financial Times ranked it 15th out of 100 top schools across the globe for the amount of international exposure on its MBA course, and third within the UK.
In the early days most Bradford students were British but now just 20 per cent are from the EU while the balance is drawn from around 30 nationalities all over the world. Stuart Sanderson says students' expectations have changed because of the ethnic differences. "They come here for the British experience but sometimes that has its own tensions. They may be returning home to a different business climate where MBAs are rare and the promotion system is much slower." The school's efforts to internationalise its MBA programme has, he says, been beneficial for British students. "They are given a broader view of business."
True to its pragmatic approach, the School has introduced business skills into the programme alongside academic studies. Weekly workshops on negotiating, presentation and team-work are voluntary but there are plans to build it formally into the MBA course.
As well as attracting a large proportion of international students to the campus, Bradford exports its MBA around the world, for example to the Netherlands, Germany, India and Malaysia. The recent launch of distance-learning MBAs in Hong Kong and Singapore has added to its global reach. Is this all part of a Grand Plan?
Professor Francis responds: "Like any business with a good product that sells well in the domestic market, we then exported it overseas, and its reputation means that it is in great demand."
Closer to home, Francis has encouraged links with business and education within the region. "Bradford has a major problem with the number of pupils who stay on to do A-levels and we work with local schools to encourage pupils to have higher aspirations."
What does Francis see as his achievements as dean over five years? "We've recruited a lot of new staff and launched new research programmes. Business is brisk, and last year's intake increased by 25 per cent with the same predicted for 2003. I believe that Bradford has regained its reputation and will become a global brand in business education."
In 2000, the School gained the European Foundation for Management Education's kitemark for management education - the EQUIS award - and in the same year was accredited for all its MBA programmes from the Association of MBAs, which is recognised as the guardian of MBA quality.
The full time course, costing £16,500, is not the only route to the MBA. Executive modular and part-time programmes are available, and the management school runs a specially designed action learning MBA for graduate engineers, which is very different from the standard MBA. Stuart Sanderson explains: "There are no electives, and we only teach the second half of the programme. Students are in learning sets of eight with a tutor, meeting monthly to read papers on a particular topic. The onus is on each individual to provide a good learning experience for the others."
For the future, Bradford plans to expand its global reach but to be choosy about who it works with. Sanderson says: "We want to link with partners who enhance our brand. There have to be considerations other than income flow. Above all we want to maintain one Bradford MBA, so that it's the same product everywhere."Reuse content