Oxford v Cambridge: The race between Saïd Business School and the Judge Business School

Peter Brown meets the Dean who pushed Oxford's business school ahead of Cambridge

Watched by Al Gore, Robert Redwood, eBay's Jeff Skoll and 600 others in the Nelson Mandela lecture theatre, Professor Anthony Hopwood, retiring dean of the Saïd Business School, looks confident and happy as he introduces the Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship. He has the air of a man who has wheeled and dealt in high circles.

Ever since the 1260s, when John Balliol and Walter de Merton stumped up the cash for the colleges named after them, Oxford has been adroit at finding rich sponsors with an eye to posterity. Few have been as good at it as Hopwood. This year, 21 per cent of the school's income will come from donations, endowments and trusts. "Which I think is one of the highest in Europe," says Hopwood immodestly.

He took over seven and a half years ago from the economist John Kay, whose brief reign ended in a flurry of indignation at the university's disinclination to pay a market rate to management lecturers. On that subject, Hopwood's "softly, softly" policy of making friends rather than enemies in high places has paid off, to the point where the school has considerable autonomy. "We still can't pay the same salaries as top US institutions or even London Business School. We'd like a little more freedom, but we've come a long way," he says.

And as he points out, there are many other attractions to working - and learning - in Oxford. The figures prove it. Bucking all the trends, the Oxford MBA intake was up to 225 this year from 170, and applications are 40 per cent up, with a high (690) GMAT average.

Three of Said's students were in this year's winning Boat Race crew. In the Financial Times's world MBA rankings, too, Oxford is ahead, at number 20, while its older opponent at Cambridge, the Judge School of Management, lies 35th.

But can Oxford keep it up? MBA rankings are drawn up largely on the basis of post-course salary increases, and the younger the intake the more impressive those will be. Oxford's average age is 29, compared with 26 - and falling - in most of America. The next leg of the race could be tougher than the first.

Pondering this from within the school's glass-fronted facade is Professor Colin Mayer, who will take over as dean in September.

His aim, he says, is to see the Saïd as a top 10 world player within five years. The first step, he says, will be to reform the management stucture at the college to reflect its improved status.

Those who know him describe him as approachable, efficient, a good behind-the-scenes operator and very, very bright. An Oxford graduate himself, he can move seamlessly between the corridors of study and power. In the Nineties, he helped to set up the influential economics consultancy Oxera, which he says helps to keep him informed on the big business issues.

Although he has been at the business school since its inception, he was chosen as dean by the university only after a global executive search. An expert on corporate governance, he has been setting up Saïd's latest venture, the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation, complete with a generous £5m donation from The Hundred Group.

Married with two daughters, he lists his interests as piano, jogging, reading philosophy and science. The philosophy, he says, feeds into his argument that, in financial centres, trust is more important than regulation. And as for science, he says bullishly that at Oxford "there's been just as much innovation activity, and perhaps rather more, than at Cambridge". The Saïd is becoming known for its entrepreneurship teaching.

Mayer has been at the heart of the Oxford economics scene for many years, and it is the strength of the school's relations with the wider university, some might say, that have helped to push Oxford ahead of Cambridge. "We've got faculty in 27 out of the 29 colleges in Oxford," Hopwood says. The implication is that Cambridge is behind both in salaries and in integration.

Oxford can also point to a seemingly never-ending list of initiatives. Hopwood, whose background is in accountancy, reels them off: "We've looked forward into a world of business that's rapidly changing. We're strong in relation to new emerging sectors of the economy, particularly those that are knowledge-intensive. As well as the Skoll Centre we have an international summit in media and communications. We host the James Martin Institute for Science and Civilisation. We've got the Clifford Chance Centre for the Management of Professional Services and they've just increased funding by 48 per cent.

"We have 'Silicon Valley comes to Oxford' - we bring over techies and venture capitalists young and old, and they do master classes and plenaries with our MBA students. And L'Oreal have endowed a chair in marketing."

Why did L'Oreal choose Oxford over, for example, Cambridge? Geoff Skingsley, global HR director, explains: "The school was full of new ideas. It more or less sees the world as its potential recruiting ground. And that matches our strategy perfectly."

Hopwood is proud of his pupils. "A lot of colleges initially thought management was going to attract second-rate students. When they saw them, people wanted to have our students. They are highly articulate with backgrounds in history and philosophy as well as business."

One battle Hopwood appears to have lost, however, is the drive to establish management as a discipline in its own right. The school's undergraduates (an intake of 80 to 90 a year) still mostly study for joint honours in economics and management. But in an "assets swap" with Templeton College, the Saïd school has taken over executive education - "it is very personalised, not a sausage factory" - and announced a new diploma in financial strategy. And a small Executive (part-time) MBA programme, which takes about 35 students a year, has been launched.

Hopwood's ability as a fund-raiser is doubly important for a new school which cannot yet rely on large alumni donations (though an Annual Giving Officer has just been appointed). He can be justly proud of it, especially since it was achieved against a fight with cancer. He is now in remission and looking forward to a two-year sabbatical. "I have some very exciting plans". Oxford must hope that Colin Mayer's will match them.

'There are fantastic visting speakers at Oxford. It's exhilarating.'

If Vinay Melon, 29, ever had doubts about taking an MBA at the Said Business School they disappeared this spring when he found himself representing the university on a week-long tour of India by Oxford's Chancellor Lord Patten of Barnes (Chris Patten). It culminated in lunch with Dr. Manmohan Singh, the India Prime Minister.

"Meeting my own Prime Minister like that - it was something that only Oxford could have offered," says Melon, who looked at Cambridge and two US schools before plumping for the Said.

"I was a journalist in India, wanting to get into management and Oxford was planning a media and management centre. Also, my wife was able to find work here; she could not have worked in America.

"There are fantastic visiting speakers in Oxford, and being part of the university - I'm at Jesus College - gives it an added magic. It's very pressured, but working in teams of five different nationalities on assignments with 48-hour deadlines is exhilarating."

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows, Network Security)

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Trade Desk Specialist (FIX, Linux, Windows...

First Class Graduate (Computer Science, Economics, Finance)

£23000 per annum: Harrington Starr: First Class Graduate (Computer Science, Ec...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice