Chicago strikes a fine balance

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It has been innovative on a variety of fronts. In particular, Chicago's GSB has become the first business school with permanent campuses on three continents, adding a Singapore campus last September to a second base in Barcelona.

Investment banking attracted just over 21% of the Chicago graduating class of 2000, compared with the 33% or so who chose to go into consulting, still the most popular destination despite the recent lure of dot-coms. Interest in both consulting and investment banking is up from the previous year, although venture capital and marketing also claim a large share of graduates.

Among those who went into investment banking in London last year were three recruits for Goldman Sachs, two for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter (MSDW), three for Merrill Lynch, one for Chase Manhattan, one for JPMorgan and one for Deutsche Bank.

Chicago students heading for a career in this sector can take heart that many important institutions are unlikely to take this business school off their core target list.

Clayton Rose, MD of the equities division at JPMorgan, is quoted on the B-school's website as saying that Chicago GSB graduates are some of the most balanced students around. 'Unlike some schools that are simply quantitative or those that focus on managing the softer issues, there's a very good combination at Chicago,' he says.

Rose is a Chicago GSB graduate himself and has been recruiting there for 20 years. He says he keeps coming back because the school continues to produce the kind of highly adaptable thinkers his business needs. Nor is it only former graduates who draw this conclusion. Placement rates for Chicago graduates are consistently very high, with 98% placed within three months of graduation and 99% within six months.

Publications that review MBAs globally often point out the fact that the Chicago faculty includes four Nobel laureates and praise the school's close links with the city's nearby business community and the balance struck on the course between theory and practice. A two-year full-time MBA can be stretched to five years part-time and the Executive MBA offers a variety of options.

As rankings go, Chicago GSB has had its ups and downs. It was ranked sixth by the Financial Times in its global ranking of MBAs last October, it moved up to 4th place in the most recent survey out last week, but plummeted from third to 10th place in the Business Week 2000 US rankings which placed Wharton first, Northwestern second and Harvard third. One of the main reasons given for the Chicago downgrade was the level of student complaints about a lack of cohesive community and inadequate facilities.

In Business Week's online diary of life in the first 10 weeks at B-school (www.businessweek.com), Jeannie Rhee of the class of 2002 at Chicago GSB says: 'Chicago's academic environment is a fine balance between competition and co-operation among students. While students themselves are co-operative, many of the school's policies foster a competitive atmosphere.'

For example, for the first time in the school's history first-year students passed a vote that they should not be allowed to disclose their grades to recruiters.

On the other hand, she also notes that 'in an average week there are four to six recruiting presentations or organisation meetings every day'.

The lesson seems to be: prepare for the school you choose - the brand here is a very strong one, and the atmosphere probably goes with the aims of this MBA.

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