Big Five go after graduate brains

The trend that has seen European business schools team up with Big Five firms to develop financial and management training shows no signs of letting up.

Last month the London Business School announced that Deloitte Consulting would support its first research fellowship in e-business.

Pete Mooney, principal with Deloitte Consulting, made no bones about the firm’s motives.

‘We are very excited to work so closely with such an experienced professor and business school,’ he began benevolently. ‘We are committed to making this opportunity work for our consulting practice, our clients and the students of London Business School – and possibly recruit a few graduates in the process.’

A return on investment
And there’s the rub – the firms, understandably, want something for their pound of flesh. In its purist form that flesh takes the form of graduates, in other tie-ups of this kind its knowledge.

It was knowledge that lay behind April’s agreement between the London Business School, Andersen and Lucent Technologies who are seeking to create a Centre for the Network Economy.

The partners are aiming high and want to see the new centre develop into nothing less than ‘the leading, interdisciplinary academic authority and focal point for research into, and teaching about, the successful management, governance and societal impact of commercial enterprises in the network economy’.

Anderson, like Lucent, will be no idle bystander. The research agenda will be aided by an advisory board, which includes both London Business School academics and representatives from the two sponsors.

Again while LBS Dean John Quelch talked of the ‘cutting edge research’ the centre will conduct, Chris Osborne, Andersen’s global managing partner of strategy solutions talked of the benefits that the research would bring the firm.

Benefits for the firm
‘Andersen believes that business and society are entering a period of profound change,’ he said. ‘We expect our relationship with London Business School to give us insights into the nature of that change, and to help us to develop the innovative solutions that our clients will need in order to respond.’

It’s not just the LBS (where, until April, KPMG partner and former ICAEW president Baroness Noakes was a governor) getting involved. At the beginning of the year PricewaterhouseCoopers and INSEAD, another leading global business school, announced the setting up of a five-year research programme to study how high performance organisations operate and create value in the new economy.

A grand title – the INSEAD-PricewaterhouseCoopers Research Initiative on High Performance Organisations – was backed by a grand cheque. PwC stumped up a Euro 5m (Pounds 3m), the largest single grant in the 40-year history of INSEAD.

But if the firms are not shy in making sure their motives are well-understood, perhaps the business schools themselves are a little backwards when it comes to coming forwards.

After all European schools face a major battle with the big US players in attracting students.

INSEAD (seventh) and the London Business School (eighth) were the only Europe-based executive educators in the FT’s top 10 league table published last week.

Make no mistake: the likes of Columbia and Harvard are in these boys’ sights – and Big Five backing might just help get them there.


INSEAD online

London Business School online

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