Aerial View from Manhattan. The Bloomberg Center; Verizon Exec. Ed. Center, Residential Building, The Bridge (listed from left to right) - Credit Kilograph, Weiss Manfredi, and Handel Architects
The proposed Cornell university campus on Roosevelt Island, Manhattan © Kilograph, Weiss Manfredi, and Handel Architects

The front steps of the Old Marylebone Town Hall in London are known to Beatles fans for the 1969 wedding of Paul and Linda McCartney, one of many couples to marry at the register office inside.

The municipal block on busy Euston Road more recently became the dowry for another marriage, between Westminster Council and new tenant London Business School, which is converting the buildings to expand its teaching space by 70 per cent.

“We have got this wonderful building in Regent’s Park but it has been limiting in terms of size,” Andrew Likierman says, referring to Sussex Place, the listed property designed by architect John Nash in the 1820s, which has been the school’s base since it was founded in 1964. The additional town hall site opens next year.

The search for much-needed space has taken “a long time”, he admits.

Adding campuses in densely populated global cities like London has become a focus for numerous business schools, which could scoop up additional students — and their fees — if they only had space to teach them.

A major problem is the rising cost of land in the urban centres where they are based, which is why partnerships with local government and private developers can be the ideal solution.

Paying for new campus construction is less of an issue among US business schools, whose highly developed fundraising programmes can secure donations to support building projects costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

However, even here partnerships have proved popular, illustrating that working with government and the private sector has benefits above and beyond cost.

Cornell University is developing a new campus on New York’s Roosevelt Island, a previously neglected sliver of land in the city’s East River, now being revived.

The 185,000 sq m of buildings set in 4.8 hectares of open space will cost $2bn to build, with about $100m coming from City Hall. New York’s Applied Sciences NYC initiative received bids from a range of institutions that wanted to build a world-class technology campus in the city, including nearby Columbia University, New York University and Stanford University in California.

Cornell partnered with Technion — Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa for its successful bid and is using a $350m gift from an anonymous donor to fund the balance of the campus costs.

Money is not such an issue in the US as it might be for other business schools, according to Soumitra Dutta, dean of Cornell’s College of Business. However, he admits that even Cornell would find it hard to justify the sums needed to buy sizeable plots of land in an expensive city like New York.

Partnerships also reflect the symbiotic relationship between higher education institutions and the businesses, public spaces and cultural institutions that surround them, according to Professor Dutta.

“Having knowledge institutions is a boon for the cities themselves because [they] are in a race for the best talent,” he says, noting that the school has been increasing its city centre activities with ventures such as tech start-up incubators for the past two decades.

If the Roosevelt Island campus had not been possible, Cornell would have had opportunities to work with other owners of urban land, says Prof Dutta.

The business school already has a partnership with some medical schools in New York, he notes. “Having said that, [Roosevelt Island campus] was a focused effort, trying to do something bigger on a bigger scale.”

The new campus, Cornell Tech, will also combine facilities for the engineering departments and medicine, enabling the business school to co-operate with several disciplines rather than just one, Prof Dutta notes.

“We would be able to do things in co-operation with local industries which would have been difficult otherwise,” he says. The incubator that will run at Roosevelt Island will allow Cornell Johnson to connect with New York’s venture capital firms, for instance.

In Madrid, IE Business School is building upwards rather than outwards thanks to a partnership with developers that gained permission to build four high-rise residential complexes in a neglected part of the city.

The campus will be located in a fifth skyscraper, at 165m somewhat lower than the residential blocks. This will create 50,000 sq m of additional space for the school, with capacity for 3,500 students.

IE, which has an executive education partnership with the Financial Times, will have this land for 20 years, renewable for another 55. The high-rise building will enable IE, currently in 20 buildings across the city, to bring many of its students together in one location, something Santiago Iñiguez de Onzoño, IE dean, believes could foster further educational opportunities.

“The city is our campus,” he says, noting that there is an additional benefit in the school being able to offer its students a relatively low cost of living in Madrid as well as the city’s rich culture of art, food and entertainment.

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