| Colin Mayer
London, Oct. 29: Not to worry if you cannot get to Oxford because from next year Oxford will come to you. Well, sort of.
The Oxford Said Business School, which claims to be the leading institution of its type in Britain, is to invest £10 million to set up a research centre in Mumbai, it was confirmed today.
“This is the first centre outside UK and will be a huge commitment as far as Oxford is concerned,” pledged Professor Colin Mayer, who took over on October 1 as the dean of the school.
“There will be a study centre in Oxford that will lead the research work in India,” he said.
Oxford and Cambridge are loath to dilute their standing by opening branches in other countries, as many other British universities and public schools are doing, but this move recognises that the best Indian students, especially in business studies, are heading for the US because few of them can afford to come to the UK.
Although the business school was set up in 1996, it is integrated into the ancient university.
Oxford’s thinking appears to be that it can outsource its prestige and name to the centre in Mumbai but the running costs will have to come from Indian companies such as Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
This is not quite the same as Indian students experiencing “the city of dreaming spires” but it is a compromise and a way of strengthening links with India.
The school held its inaugural Oxford-India Forum to discuss the Indian economy in New Delhi in March. Another will be held in Mumbai in April next year, which will be attended by Lord Patten, chancellor of Oxford University (and father, incidentally, of Rang De Basanti star Alice Patten) who has already been out to India once.
The first forum was “generously supported” by TCS, which will probably have to be equally generous in supporting Oxford’s research centre in India.
The school is not exactly flush with money, if a report in a student newspaper is to be believed.
“The Said Business School has generated a £5-million financial deficit, The Oxford Student has learnt,” the paper reported.
“Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act covering the financial year 2004-2005 revealed a disparity of almost £900,000.”
It said: “The university loaned the school £5 million for the cost of the construction, for which it has not been reimbursed. Ironically, the school has also found itself in the red by approximately this amount.”
It went on: “The construction of the school’s current building was largely based on a £20-million donation from Wafic Sayid, who was mediator in the Al-Yamamah arms deal to Saudi Arabia. A petition from the 1990s gathered over 10,000 signatures in protest against the site’s construction, while a 2001 anti-capitalism demonstration witnessed a protester scaling the building and unfurling a ‘Built with Blood Money’ banner.”
On the plus side, “the school’s renowned MBA course, which charges students £26,000 a year, on top of a college fee of £3,000, was this year ranked by the Financial Times as the best one-year programme in the country”.
On taking up his new post as the Peter Moores Dean at the Said Business School, Mayer said: “One thing that differentiates us from many business schools in Europe is that we are part of one of the greatest universities in the world, and the school therefore has a major intellectual ‘hinterland’ upon which to draw.”
Mayer, who has been at the school since its inception and was its first professor, initiated the new Masters in Financial Economics and helped to establish the Oxford University Centre for Business Taxation.
Speaking to a news agency in Mumbai, he said he expected the research centre in India to be operational by next year.
“For outsiders, the growth of India is a lesson to learn and for the country, there are a lot of challenges. We are bringing in international attention to the success of India and trying to involve the policy-makers and corporate India to address issues related to infrastructure and education in the country,” Mayer said.
The centre will have representatives from the business world as well as from decision-makers, he added. “The policy-makers and the business heads will guide the centre. We are in the process of designing the nature of advisory board of the centre in India.”