In the United States, and in most countries, “university” is a word that describes an institution of learning that is “universal,” that involves many disciplines and departments of learning.
These departments are often called colleges, where students study; but students turn to the University for the common facilities, such as the library, the dorms, the bookshops, etc. The opposite is true at Cambridge.
The Cambridge “College” really is the centre of life, not the centre of one specific academic discipline.
For example, my friend was a Fellow of Hughs Hall College, Cambridge. That means he lived and dined there while studying for his advanced degree. While a student, he attended guest lectures and special events at Hughs Hall, received tutorials from higher level students there, and basically became emotionally attached to his college. He happened to have studied in the Judge School of Business, but other members of Hughs Hall studied in all different disciplines of the university.
Students really are attached to their college like a fraternity or social club, in a way they wouldn’t be to just a dormitory. The colleges have their own social events, raise their own sports teams, and have a rather stiff rivalry with some other colleges (especially in rowing).
Members of a Cambridge college can often be called upon to help each other for life.
In sum, the Cambridge college system is designed to give their graduates social networks and understanding of disciplines much broader and more varied than students could get in a purely B-school environment.
Cambridge and the Judge School of Business
I spoke with James Barker, in admissions at Cambridge Judge School of Business, who was extremely responsive and obviously very proud of his school. Judge has a small class size—about 150—which allows everyone to get to know one another. They are, “not looking for conveyer belt students”, Barker emphasized. He explained that the school attracts interesting students, who sometimes have unusual backgrounds for B-school.
Art and theatre students have gotten MBAs at Judge. The school has a reputation for being original and open to new ideas.
Despite their varied background, students find finance the most popular concentration of study. About 50-60% of Judge graduates end up in finance in London. Other popular concentrations are entrepreneurship and technology.
Typical students at the Judge School of Business are a bit older and more experienced than their counterparts in U.S. MBA programs, and the school is actively seeking collaborative experience when perusing student applications. It’s an essential quality, because at Judge School of Business, students are assigned to study groups—one in the first term and another in the second. It’s an important part of the Judge learning experience to work with a team.
Good management, after all, is knowing how to get the most out of workmates with diverse backgrounds.
Indeed, collaboration runs through into the school’s attitude to grades. Students work hard at Judge School of Business, but there isn’t the kind of grade stress that permeates some lesser B-schools. The top 10% of the class makes the Dean’s List (i.e., the equivalent of a red diploma). But although employers could ask for students’ transcripts, the reality is that they don’t. A Cambridge diploma speaks for itself.
Judge School of Business has a flexibly timed program, lasting from nine months to a year. Students begin in September, and may end in June if they wish. But most continue until August to get involved in research, internships, study trips and other activities that occur during the summer. “The good thing about being a small school” said James “is that we can be reactive and flexible to student needs.” In either case, it’s a very short time frame for the amount of activities that Judge School of Business puts into its program. Students are busy from their first day onward.
Cambridge Venture Project
Three things that keep students busy are the Cambridge Venture Project in the first term, the Global Consulting Project in the Spring, and the Capstone Project that is designed to help consolidate a student’s chosen specialization.
The Cambridge Venture Project happens for two to three weeks alongside classes. Students are assigned to groups that help high tech start-ups. With the whole of Cambridge University’s brainpower to tap into, the availability of fascinating start up projects to work with is quite broad.
The mandatory Global Consulting Project, conducted over the Easter break, sends students to prepare and present consulting projects for top international companies. The Judge School of Business lines up several projects, and students pitch for the ones they want to work on and the country they want to go to. Students can also suggest their own projects.
In the late Spring, students join one of eight specialization groups that attend coaching nights, speaker events, dinner debates, etc., in their chosen field, which culminate in a group Capstone Consulting Project and presentation that brings together everything that the students have learned over their year and in their specialization.
Alongside the projects, of course, are the regular academics. The Management Science course is extremely popular with students, plus students receive all the usual required courses in a B-school curriculum, and can choose from among 35 electives.
Of course, in the Cambridge tradition, besides being admitted to Judge School of Business, a student must also be admitted to a college. Judge helps students with this, they make suggestions and advise their accepted applicants about their selection.
For students in business school, the college application is a minor, secondary addition to the B-school application, but, as mentioned above, the college is a quintessential, and memorable, part of the Cambridge experience.
Dean, Pericles ABLE Project, Moscow, Russia
Dean Dent holds a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley and has been advising students on preparing and applying for LL.M. and MBA programs since 1998.
by Marian Dent