Imperial Offers a Grand Vision for Tomorrow’s Leaders

Imperial Offers a Grand Vision for Tomorrow’s Leaders main image

Many experts on business schools are speculating about the future of programs, such as the MBA. Technology is one of the big factors forcing change. You can see this unfolding at Imperial College Business School in London, which is part of a historically STEM-driven environment.

“This is a vibrant place,” says Leila Guerra, associate dean of programs at Imperial. “Technology is in our DNA. It’s part of who we are.”

As a result, some innovative activities are happening that have the potential to dramatically change the student experience and influence other programs.

Data Observatory

One of the greatest challenges facing every business today – and certainly moving forward – is managing, assessing, and translating big data. Built into a partnership with KPMG, the university’s Data Observatory allows people to visualize data sets in “an immersive and multi-dimensional environment,” according to the school’s website.

The Data Institute designed, built, and houses the observatory. This unique facility is particularly beneficial to business students, says Guerra.

“They must extract the value of big data,” she adds. “And they have to go the extra mile and implement it.”

In other words, businesspeople are responsible for understanding the data and using it appropriately to improve results and tackle problems facing their organization. Application is a big portion of the education.

“We live in a technology driven world,” says Guerra. “We don’t want students to be consumers of technology. They have to be managers of technology.”


Imperial is launching an MSC in financial tech in September 2019. The expectation is it will forge a “unique bridge between engineers and the school’s finance area, which is one of the strongest in Europe,” says Guerra. The first cohort will include about 60 students and will feature networking opportunities with the broader community.

The rigorous, analytical curriculum will be complimented by field trips, electives, and the possibility of customizing the program by choosing two research projects that will be carried out with help from a mentor, faculty, and advisory board. Upon graduation, says Guerra, students will have a firm understanding of financial markets and their future.

Artificial intelligence

As competition among business schools increases, institutions must find ways to stand out. While AI is a huge area of interest for business students and professors alike, it’s usually incorporated into class. At Imperial, however, it’s also becoming part of the admissions process. 

To demonstrate the school’s links to technology, Imperial is employing “chatbots,” which allow candidates to ask questions and get immediate responses. Rather than a person behind the online chats, a robot responds - learning as it goes. The technology learns from previous questions and then builds on the answers, explains Guerra. This same technology is also used in coursework, highlighting what was said in lectures. This advanced chat technology allows users to search the entire system. 

“We’re moving toward new ways to communicate with our students,” says Guerra.

The school is trying to provide lifelong learning opportunities for former students, and Guerra adds this is a way to reach out to alumni.

“You can’t expect one degree to suffice,” she adds. “You must adapt your learning.”

A vision for the future

Alumni can tailor their learning and take online electives in areas, such as big data or machine learning.

It’s clear to see the minds at Imperial are looking to the future. Guerra stresses the school is focused on preparing members of its community for jobs that don’t necessarily exist yet.

One of the ways to accomplish this, she adds, is to emphasize soft skills, which differs from the skills taught at the school say 10 years ago. Now, students learn about managing change, flexibility, and critical thinking.

Imperial’s leadership framework consists of “you as a person,” “you as part of a team,” “you as part of a corporation,” and “you as part of a tech-driven world.” Creativity is another area of importance, says Guerra. Of course, they need to understand, translate, and put into action big data, too.

“This is what employers want,” she says. “Maybe you’ll be creating the job of tomorrow or you’re just going to have to be able to adapt to that job quickly.”

Indeed, Imperial’s allegiance to STEM lends itself to being a forward thinking place, says Guerra. As a result, she adds, the community should always “embrace change.”

“We have a successful path ahead of us. We don’t rest on our laurels,” says Guerra. “We’re constantly thinking, ‘What’s next?’ just as we expect our students to do.”

Francesca Di Meglio

Francesca Di Meglio has written about higher education for two decades. She covered business schools and all aspects of management education for what became Bloomberg Businessweek from May 2004 to December 2013. Di Meglio was the consultant editor for the book Admitted: An Interactive Workbook for Getting into a Top MBA Program (85 Broads Publishing, 2011), which was written by admissions consultant Betsy Massar. In addition, she is a family travel and parenting blogger at the Italian Mamma website

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