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."

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game