Cambridge's Canon

The British B-school's Simon Learmount looks for ambition, career success, and that something extra in applicants

Simon Learmount is deputy director of the MBA program and director of admissions at the University of Cambridge's Judge Institute of Management in Britain. Learmount earned his MBA from Cambridge in 1996. Back then, the B-school was very different. It enrolled only 47 MBAs in a three-year program. Now it lasts just one year and enrolls 105 students.

Learmount also holds a joint degree in modern history and French, and a PhD from Cambridge in corporate governance. After earning his MBA, he worked at the Japan Development Bank in Tokyo and joined the B-school faculty in 2000. He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider in Cambridge. Here's an edited transcript of their conversation:

Q: How else has the program changed since you were an MBA?


It's more market-focused. One of the underlying philosophies that remains true today is that the MBA has to be a very practical program. What you learn has to be applied. We're really careful to see what students and companies are saying, and we aim to be incredibly responsive.

Q: How will your student recruiting efforts change in 2004?


Cambridge has a really good reputation in Commonwealth countries, so we're now focusing on North America. We haven't targeted the U.S. market before.

Q: Please explain your thinking.


By targeting the U.S., we're not just targeting U.S. students. A lot of people around the world first think about doing an MBA an American business school because it's a much more well-established market. By marketing ourselves better in North America, we'll attract a large number of international students.

Q: You've seen applications from the U.S. rise 40% to 50% since 2002. Why?


North American students tell us it's the international exposure they'll get here -- they just don't see that in the States -- that's important. In some ways, that's linked to the geopolitical situation because, at the moment, there are a lot of discussions about how the U.S. fits into the world.

Our next class will have 21 U.S. and Canadian MBAs, along with about 11 British nationals, 8 Germans, 4 Thai students, an Iranian, even someone from Mauritius, among others.

Q: What's your pitch to the U.S. market?


It costs 24,000 [British] pounds ($42,600). That's a phenomenal return on investment. We're a one-year program, but we cover as much [content] as any North American school. You're only out of the [job] market for one year.

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