Imperial maps out its vision for the future of hi-tech education

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Big names in the finance faculty, plus a leading edge in innovation and entrepreneurship, make it one of the up-and-coming UK institutions mentioned by financial services recruiters looking to explore the world beyond the London Business School.

But in a few years, Imperial is likely to be the name on everyone's lips for another reason. Gary Tanaka, a US technology investment manager and former student, has donated 25m (€39m) to his alma mater.

Tanaka's donation is being used to build a new faculty building designed by Sir Norman Foster. The building is to be more than mere bricks and mortar. It is to embody a new vision of business education.

When the building is finished in 2004, Imperial College Management School will be a different place. Learning will incorporate cutting-edge technology. Knowledge will be transmitted using interactive software accessible to students around the clock. Instead of classrooms, debating theatres will be the arenas of discussion. Instead of teachers, there will be conductors of debates. All will adjourn to a 'forum', to sip coffee, consider the topics contested and conduct additional research on wireless devices linked via Bluetooth, the shortwave technology that allows electronic devices to communicate within a radius of up to 100 metres.

Beguiling as it may be, this is all in the future. Until 2004, Imperial is restricted to its current premises. Sir David Norburn, director of the management school, complains that he is being forced to serve a gourmet meal in a transport café, and the big guns will not be the building, but entrepreneurship and quantitative finance.

The school looks set to maintain its firepower in both areas. An entrepreneurship centre is being launched this week, accompanied by a VC-sponsored competition in which 300,000 of prize money is available. In finance, the school has been hiring faculty members heavily, and boasts four newly minted professors with Bank of England experience, who will work alongside David Miles (former chief economist at Merrill Lynch).

Miles and his team are put to good use. In addition to a full-time and part-time executive MBA offering a finance elective, Imperial also offers an MSc in finance and has Europe's largest PhD finance programme.

Such is the renown of the latter that it has lured some well-known figures away from the industry and into Imperial for a period of study. Rudi Bogni, until recently the chief executive of UBS Private Banking, is among those having taken time out to study quantitative methods there.

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