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The best of both worlds

Peter Tufano, dean of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, talks about the recently introduced 1+1 programme, which results in two master’s degrees

education Updated: Dec 03, 2013 13:32 IST
Ayesha Banerjee

Oxford University’s Said Business School has recently introduced an interesting 1+1 programme, which results in two master’s degrees. For Said dean Peter Tufano, it’s “very simple”. Students study at two master’s programmes at Oxford. The first master’s is an MSc chosen from a selection of the many one-year MSc programmes offered by other Oxford University departments and then in the second year, they study Saïd’s one-year MBA.

Why it is unique

The programme is aimed at developing both breadth and depth among future leaders. Students also get a chance to gain access to Oxford’s 800 years of education. “To succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive business environment, some students will choose to develop their deep subject expertise through undertaking an MSc – in subjects such as environmental policy, computer sciences or the internet – and combine that with the breadth of a management education from Oxford,” Tufano elaborates.

The programme is designed to attract talented and directed individuals who seek to fast-track their development by undertaking two relevant and complementary programmes. Oxford is uniquely placed to offer this educational opportunity as it already offers 21 MScs via this programme.

“More departments have expressed interest in joining us to add their programmes. And I am pleased to say that the Oxford MSc in Contemporary India is already part of the programme,” he adds.

Students’ feedback
The response of the students has been very good and is attracting “strong” candidates. “After all, they have to meet the entry requirements of not one but two Oxford master’s programmes,” says Tufano. One of these “strongest candidates,” as Tufano puts it, has been Kevin Baum, who graduated last summer. A degree holder in biology from Stanford, Baum arrived at Oxford to obtain his master’s in water science, policy and management after teaching in an inner-city school in the US and working in Washington DC as a technical consultant for the US Department of Energy on fuel-cell-related projects. While at Said Business School, he brought together his peers from both the water science and business schools.

They spent a weekend brainstorming to develop business plans and fine-tuning Baum’s own research plan about how to create low-cost instrumentation for measuring water salinity, which is important, for example, for shrimp farmers. The business plan won a university-wide business plan competition and the team was given funds to get the start-up going.

The 1+1 programme helped Baum assemble a good team and gain sufficient insight. “If not for the programme, he wouldn’t have had both the depth and breadth of knowledge required. They actually needed to know a lot about technical issues. But then, without the business side, I doubt whether they could have turned that into a good business plan,” says Tufano. Others who see the potential of the programme include noted American investor, Bill Ackman, who recently made a £4.5m gift to the School through his Pershing Square Foundation to fund the MBA programmes of five 1+1 students a year beginning in October 2014. “We are looking forward to welcoming the first five Pershing Scholars to the school and are accepting applications now,” says Tufano.

Vision and mission
On how Oxford’s vision and mission translates to what the Saïd Business School stands for, the dean says that the university has a rich tradition of educating leaders for 800 years.

“These leaders are shaped by a rigorous course of study, as well as by an implicit set of responsibilities naturally arising from our role in society. We like to challenge ourselves and our students – and this is true at the business school,” says Tufano.

The teaching is built on ­discussion, sharing of views and the active engagement of the whole learning community. A good example of this is the online problem-solving platform (Global Opportunities and Threats Oxford) launched last year that brings together the school community and Oxford alumni around a seemingly intractable problem or issue.

“In 2013, our focus has been demographic change and the opportunities and threats this presents in different countries. This would be of significance for those companies, (and others such as policy-makers and agencies), operating in those countries. Academics from across Oxford (not just the Business School) have come together with our MBA and EMBA students and alumni, to form a learning community to address this issue, to work collaboratively to generate ideas, produce high-level content and action plans focussed on addressing the challenges presented by changing demographics. Next year we will focus on big data and in 2015 on the scarcity of resources,” says Tufano.

‘Indians are ambitious’
On his recent visit to India, the dean says he has been to the country a number of times, but mostly for business. “I love the energy here and the people I’ve met. Whenever we visit India, we meet with prospective students for our programmes and there is always a real buzz at those meetings – these are typically high-achieving, ambitious, committed individuals who want to make a difference in the world – and who are interested in coming to Oxford to achieve their goals. It is very motivating as a teacher to meet these young people and to hear about their aspirations. And we catch up with alumni and hear about the interesting things they are doing here,” he says.

On a more personal note, Tufano concludes, “I adore Indian food. And I am hoping that on one of these trips in the future, I will have some time to see more of this amazing