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London Business School celebrates its fiftieth birthday

08 Oct 2014


Alumni celebrations in almost 100 cities mark the School’s 50th anniversary

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Alumni from more than 60 countries have celebrated London Business School’s 50thanniversary at events around the world.

Events have taken place worldwide in almost 100 cities including: London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York and Sydney.

The series of celebrations which began with the London Alumni Club event held at the Science Museum on 2 October, has brought together alumni representing more than 45 nationalities to celebrate the School’s 50thbirthday.

Nearly 400 alumni attended the celebration in London. Emeritus Professor of Marketing, Paddy Barwise, explained its significance: “The School was conceived and born in the early 1960s. In 1963 the Franks report on improving British industry included a recommendation to set up two world-class business schools. The mission was to better equip British managers to manage British businesses. We’re now ranked in the world’s top 100 universities and we are consistently in the top tier of global business schools.”

Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, London Business School also spoke at the Science Museum. He added: “We have become truly global in a very short period of time.”

Pointing to the impact the School has had on the world of business over the last 50 years, Professor Birkinshaw told the story of Gary Hamel, now Visiting Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, who taught at the School from 1984-1994. He said: “Gary has changed the way we talk and think about the world of business. We have Gary and CK Pralahad to thank for the term ‘core competency’. They turned strategy thinking on its head. Up until that point we had tried to understand competitive advantage through the five forces and industry analysis. They changed the way we think about competitive advantage. Competitive advantage, they said, comes from within. It’s about understanding what we do better than anyone else.” 

The School’s impact has not been restricted to strategy and management. The 2010s started under the shadow of global recession. When Andrew Scott, Professor of Economics addressed the G7 deputy finance ministers at a castle near Rome in June 2010, he was in a minority. The ministers were feeling the pressure of their rising national debts and were keen to do something about it. But Scott wanted them to hold back.

Based on his research, Scott told them they should expect debt to be high for the next few decades. He said history showed that was the right way to deal with a financial crisis and there were ways to cope with such long, large debt swings. They should let debt stabilise the economy, rather than using the economy to stabilise debt.

“It didn’t chime with the mood of the time,” says Scott. “I was saying that debt is a means to an end as opposed to something you should target. And I remember being told by a politician on another occasion, that no, politically debt is an end, people care about debt, so we have to bring it down.”

Despite his feelings about that meeting, and similar meetings with the UK Treasury and European Central Bank, things have so far been panning out in Scott’s direction. Debt has carried on rising and it looks like that will continue. The US government has continued to borrow. The UK government has been rather less strong on its austerity measures than it stated it would be. And the debt figures remain high. The UK’s debt is currently more than US$1 trillion, about 88 per cent of GDP. The US’s debt is close to US$17 trillion, just over 100 per cent of its GDP.

Scott’s not saying that governments should ignore debt, only that they don’t need to keep it below the 90 per cent of GDP suggested by prominent Harvard economist Kenneth Rogoff. And from UK history he knows that a couple of times government debt has reached 180 to 250 per cent of GDP and the government has just brought it down over the long term.