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From Just One Woman to 39 Percent of the Class—and Other Ways LBS Has Changed Over the Past 50 Years

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The 2017-2018 academic year marks the 50th anniversary of the MBA program at London Business School (LBS). Since 1968, the school has offered a two-year Master of Science (MSc) in Business Studies degree program—the original MBA—and has continuously refined its offerings since that time. In celebration of the 50-year mark, LBS is looking back at how far the program has come.

The Beginning

In 1966, two years after London Business School opened its doors, the school launched a two-year Master of Science (MSc) in Business Studies. The first class consisted of 35 men and just one woman, with the average age around 25 years old. The goal of the two-year degree was to prepare students for employment. In fact, according to the website, employment was seen as “one of the most significant aspects of the school’s progress at this stage of its development.”

After graduation, most students joined manufacturing firms, and a few went into merchant banking, management consultancy, and advertising. Their job functions included marketing and financial executives, planning personnel, and personal assistant roles.

As for the feedback on the first year of study, a report on the class stated, “The overall academic performance of the students during the year has been more than satisfactory. The course of studies is arduous and the number of hours of work required is much above average, imposing a considerable workload both on students and staff.”

The Early Years

In the early years of the program, growth was slow but steady. In 1971, the class size grew to 86 students and by 1975, 108 students were admitted, including 16 women. Throughout this time, LBS made various modifications to its program.

  • In 1973, LBS introduced the International Management Program, which gave 10 students the change to study abroad in Paris or at New York University.
  • In 1978, the International Management Program expanded to include Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, and top European institutions.

The 1980s

The 1980s were a time of change for LBS and the MBA program. During these years, banking and finance overtook manufacturing as the top industry for graduates. In addition, LBS continued to increase its international reputation; about half of its class comprised non-British students by the end of the decade, with more 30 nationalities represented. Most importantly, the Class of 1987 was the first to be awarded an MBA rather than an MSc degree. In an annual report, the school stated, “This more accurately and effectively conveys the spirit of the program, and the type of qualifications our students are aiming for.”

  • In 1982, LBS introduced a new part-time master’s program. The first class accepted 60 people and allowed students to complete their studies over two and a half to three years while still working.
  • In 1984, three more U.S. schools joined the International Exchange Program including Dartmouth Tuck, MIT Sloan, and Northwestern Kellogg.

The 1990s

In the 1990s, LBS adopted a more flexible format for its MBA program. The school added increased training in “soft skills” and introduced computer-based management simulation games. The class size also increased to 271 students, with 79 percent of students coming from outside the United Kingdom. Consulting became the top choice for graduates, and manufacturing shrunk to just 11 percent.

  • In 1992, LBS introduced a language requirement where students must be fluent in English and one other language to graduate. In addition, the part-time master’s was re-launched as the Executive MBA.
  • By 1996, entrepreneurship became an important part of the program, and the school launched several electives with an entrepreneurial focus, including “Small Business Management” and “Financing the Entrepreneurial Business.”
  • 1999 was the first Financial Times Global MBA ranking, and LBS ranked #1 in Europe and #8 in the world—the only non-U.S. school in the top 10.

The 2000s

By the 2000s, LBS had become a global leader in MBA education—and in 2009 it became the first non-U.S. school to top the Financial Times ranking. The MBA program was reformatted for increased flexibility, allowing students to graduate in 15 to 21 months. The class size also increased to 315 students, with 89 percent of the class from 59 countries outside the United Kingdom.

  • In 2001, LBS ranked as the best Global MBA by the Financial Times, and Forbes ranked LBS as #1 in Europe and #2 in the world for return on investment.
  • In 2003, LBS became the first European school to join the Forté Foundation to increase women in business, and in 2005, women made up 22 percent of the class.

The 2010s

In the last decade, London Business School once again revised its MBA program to give students even greater flexibility. The school also continued to increase its size, welcoming 468 students by 2018—12 times the size of the first class in 1968. In addition, women now make up 39 percent of the MBA class, and students represent 77 different nationalities.

  • In 2010, LBS started its Incubator Program to help entrepreneurs. As of 2017, 58 businesses have completed the incubator, raising more than £31 million and creating 440 full-time jobs.
  • In 2012, LBS launched the Global Business Exchange (GBE), giving students the opportunity to spend a week in another country with options ranging from South Africa to the United States.
  • In 2016, LBS completed its first fundraising campaign, raising £125 million.

To learn more about the 50th anniversary celebration of London Business School’s MBA, visit the school website.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.