50 years of impact

Discover our roots and the key moments in

history that have led us to where we are today

Before Cranfield SoM

The present day Cranfield University grew out of the College of Aeronautics, established on the site of RAF Cranfield in 1946. Since that time, through a process of strong organic growth, a succession of offshoots have become the four Schools of Cranfield University as it exists today.

1953  Work Study Group

A Work Study Group is established to focus on management. It runs short courses for business executives, with emphasis on participative learning that strengthens the initiative and enterprise of students. It is funded by Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), Hoover and the British Institute of Management.

1967  School of Management

Cranfield School of Management is established as the University's business school, growing out of industry's need for advanced management training. Professor Peter Forrester is appointed as its first Head of School.


1970  First female MBA

Marilyn Reynolds becomes the first woman to receive a Cranfield MBA.

1981  Executive MBA

The School establishes the Executive MBA programme and its first degrees are awarded two years later.


1987  Odgers Prize

The first annual Odgers Prize sponsored by Ian Odgers (MBA 1966), Partner at executive recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson, is awarded to the full-time MBA student who exhibits the most attributes considered important for success.

  • Also established is a partnership between the School and British Telecom for the Women's Management Development initiative. Led by Sandy Cotter, Donna Lucas, Kim James and Susan Vinnicombe, it is Cranfield's longest running in-company programme to-date.

1989  MBA goes global

Executive MBAs embark on a study trip to China, the first Cranfield MBA in Singapore begins with 21 Asian students, and approval is given for a part-time programme in Hong Kong. Cranfield welcomes MBA exchange students from Germany's Otto Beisheim School of Management, Denmark's Aarhus BSS, and the USA's University of Washington.

1991  Cranfield MBA Regatta

Crews from leading European and US business schools set sail in the inaugural Regatta originally sponsored by KPMG. After three days of racing around Port Solent, Cranfield takes home the event's first trophy. Organised in conjunction with Sunsail International, the annual competition would later include such names as LBS, INSEAD, IMD, SDA Bocconi, Trinity (Ireland), Rotterdam (Erasmus), Judge (Cambridge), Booth (Chicago), and Kellogg (Northwestern).

  • Alongside LBS, Cranfield is ranked a top UK provider of MBAs by the British Institute of Management.


    The James Stuckey Scholarship is funded by a successful entrepreneur Derek Battle in memory of his grandfather.


    Professor Colin New becomes the first faculty member to be interviewed on BBC Radio 4 through a direct line from the station to Cranfield's on-campus studio. He would become the first of many lecturers from the School to lend their expertise on-air.

1993  Centre for Creativity

The Cranfield Centre for Creativity is established through its 'Managing Ideas for Profit', workshop where companies learn how to capitalise on staff creativity. Participants include the DVLA, Midland Bank and British Aerospace.

1995  International exchanges

MBA students are offered exchange programmes to Kellogg School (Evanston, USA), Babson College (Boston, USA), HEC and McGill (Montreal, Canada), Macquarie School (Sydney, Australia), Cape Town Business School (South Africa), and Getulio Vargas (Buenos Aires, Argentina). The School welcomes 12 exchange students from Aarhus BSS (Denmark), Nanyang Business School (Singapore), Business School Lausanne (Switzerland), and ESADE (Spain).


1997  McKinsey scholarships

McKinsey selects four institutions (Cranfield, Oxford, LBS and Manchester) to receive a £15,000 scholarship for an individual pursuing an MBA. The Worshipful Company of Innholders offers managers the opportunity to attend a Cranfield or Cornell (US) programme with four £7,000 scholarships to boost education in hospitality.

1999  Cranfield DBA

The Cranfield Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is launched: the highest business qualification that provides a doctoral route for those who wish to acquire a top-level qualification whilst remaining practitioners. The four-year to eight-year degree is research-based but, unlike a PhD, is driven by a management issue rather than an academic research question.

2001  Triple accreditation

Cranfield School of Management becomes one of an elite group of schools worldwide to hold the triple accreditation of AACSB International (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) and AMBA (the Association of MBAs), an achievement that continues to this day.

  • The Modular MBA is introduced. The course combines eight two-week on-campus modules spread over two years, with in-company work and remote learning. The MBA also allows students to experience other countries and organisational cultures through a company exchange with a fellow participant.


    Cap Gemini Ernst & Young, the world's largest management and IT consultancy at the time, offers a new scholarship to a full-time student in the MSc in Logistics and Supply Chain Management. It covers full tuition fees and provides the opportunity to carry out a thesis with the company.

2003  Top British ranking

The Economist scores Cranfield's MBA as first in the UK, third in Europe, and 11th worldwide in its annual 'Which MBA?' ranking. To produce the ranking, the Economist Intelligence Unit surveyed 23,000 MBAs and alumni.

2005  The Bettany Centre

Tim Bettany (MBA 1969) leaves a legacy of £1.25 million for the creation of the Bettany Centre for Entrepreneurial Performance and Economics.


2007  CMRI

HRH The Princess Royal and Patron of Cranfield Trust opens the Cranfield Management Research Institute (CMRI). The £4.3 million state-of-the-art centre houses 100 staff and students. The same year sees the Cranfield School of Management Development Fund launched, enabling alumni to contribute to the School's activities and its future development. Emeritus Professor Malcolm McDonald, who spent 27 years at Cranfield as a student and lecturer, is appointed as Chair.

2009  Researcher Development Programme

The Researcher Development Programme launches. Aimed at doctoral students and researchers, the programme provides them with skills and development opportunities that will support them in their careers and enable them to create maximum impact with their research.

2011  Bloomberg Suite

The Bloomberg Suite officially opens, providing students with Bloomberg marketing data, information and analytics.  The suite offers similar experiences to those of financial institutions, giving Cranfield students a competitive advantage when seeking employment.

  • The School ranks 58th in the year's list of Top 500 UK Business Superbrands, which lists the country's top B2B brands. Cranfield scores above all other British institutions including LBS, Cambridge, Oxford and Warwick.


    The Graduate Management Association Council (GMAC), the governing body of international business schools and owner of the GMAT exam, admits the School as a member. Membership is by invitation from GMAC's board and recognises the contribution Cranfield has made to graduate management education worldwide.

2013  Cranfield on Thinkers50

Professors David Grayson, Clare Kelliher and Cliff Bowman are selected to be interviewed for the Thinkers50 list, the independent global ranking of management thinkers. The faculty, who are all highly regarded in their respective fields, discuss their latest work.

  • The newly-designed MBA is launched alongside new MSc programmes in Management, Retail Management, Strategic Leadership, Investment Management, and Management and Corporate Responsibility.

2015  Dragons' Den

Cranfield alumni Sarah Willingham (MBA 2003) and Nick Jenkins (MBA 1999), who both developed successful business plans whilst at the School, join the new BBC series of Dragons' Den.

  • Professor Susan Vinnicombe is awarded a CBE at Windsor Castle for her services to gender equality. She received her OBE in 2005.

1964  The Cranfield MBA

Cranfield's first Master of Business Administration programme is run within the Work Study Group.

1969  First awards

By 1969, Cranfield has grown enormously in the size and scope of its activities, and has a student population of 580. It is organised into three faculties under the direction of a new Senate. These are: Aeronautics, Engineering Science and Technology, and Management. Cranfield is awarded its Royal Charter, giving it university status. The first MBAs are awarded to an all-male class.

1978  Duke of Edinburgh

The University receives a Royal visit from the Duke of Edinburgh, who officially opens the new School of Management building 111.

  • The excitement of the launch continues as Cranfield Business Games are incorporated into Management Development Programmes. The Games consisted of simulations which provided an opportunity for managers to experiment with new concepts in a fun, challenging and risk-free environment, such as racing around a Silverstone track. This was the early origins of Cranfield's reputation for fresh, innovative approaches to learning.  These simulations are now web-enabled so clients can develop virtual teams all over the world.

1985  Henry Ford II Scholar

Sponsored by Ford UK, the Henry Ford II Scholar Award is established to recognise the full-time MBA student who achieves the highest overall exam marks for the year. Each prize presentation going forwards would include a representative such as a past President or CEO.


1988  Business Growth Programme

The BGP runs its first course, which receives major publicity thanks to its entrepreneurial fee payment option of 'no growth, no fee.' The programme fills 15 places from approximately 200 applicants.

  • That same year Cranfield is invited to join EUROSTART, a group that links business schools ESADE, SDA Bocconi, and ESC Lyon in a programme of entrepreneurship research, student business contact and teacher visits.


    The first annual Developing Income Generating Enterprise (DIGE) programme is designed to enable staff to assist the poor by improving their position through self-employment and micro-enterprise. Participants come from non-governmental organisations in countries as far as India, Syria, Somalia, Tanzania and The Sudan.

1990  The Cranfield Trust

The Trust is established after HRH The Princess Royal challenges the Cranfield community to use its skills to benefit the voluntary sector.  It is formed to apply the School's expertise to issues of non-profit organisations and becomes involved in a variety of projects from logistics support for disaster relief in Rwanda, to assistance with business planning and computer systems at charity headquarters.

  • Cranfield and Groupe ESC Lyon in France launch a joint European MBA programme in London.


    Eight CEOs from businesses such as B&Q, Reedpack, Yorkshire Water and NFC attend the first Chief Executives workshop run by the School's Strategic Management Group. The three-day event heralds the start of a series of strategy workshops at Cranfield for senior executives.

1992  Royal visits

The Duke of Kent tours the School of Management as the official Visitor of Cranfield. HRH The Princess Royal launches a fundraising campaign on behalf of Cranfield Trust as part of her visit.

1994  McFarlane Leadership Prize

The inaugural McFarlane Leadership Prize – an annual full-time MBA award voted on by peers – is sponsored by John McFarlane OBE and current Chairman of Barclays (MBA 1975). Its first recipient is Chris Sykes (MBA 1994).

  • The Cranfield Centre for Logistics and Transportation (CCLT) carries out trials commissioned by Jaguar Cars Ltd. The trials, part of the Elderly and Disabled Drivers Information Telematics (EDDIT) project, saw a Jaguar fitted with a vision-enhancement system akin to those used in fighter aircraft.

1996  CMDC

The £6 million Cranfield Management Development Centre (CMDC) opens for business, providing first class teaching and lecturing facilities. The first of many prestigious speakers to visit is former Prime Minister Tony Blair, delivering a speech on the importance of a robust manufacturing base in a modern competitive economy.

  • The Praxis Centre for Leadership Development, which focuses on the personal development of individuals or groups of individuals as a way of developing management overall, is created within the Human Resources Group.

1998  Key account management

Headed by Emeritus Professor Malcolm McDonald, the KAM Best Practice Club forms with a waiting list of members such as Janssen, Mercer, BOC, East Midlands Electricity, Guardian Life, Oracle, Caterpillar, Pilkington, and Aviva. KAM lets subscribing companies share experiences and learn new approaches in handling business-to-business (B2B) customers. The fees total approximately £67,500 in its first year, provided funding for research.

2000 Motorsport industry

The UK-based Motorsport Industry Association commissions Cranfield School of Management, Henley Business School, and the University of Birmingham to conduct the largest research project ever carried out within the motorsport industry. Focusing on the smaller enterprises that comprise the backbone of the British industry, it investigates its scale, scope, future, contribution to the economy, and plan to help form Government policy recommendations.


2002  CCED

The Management Development Unit (MDU) changes its name to Cranfield's Centre for Customised Executive Development (CCED).  The centre is today ranked among the Top 10 business schools in Europe for customised executive development.

  • The MBA class of 1969 establishes and funds CRAFT (The Cranfield Fees Trust) to halve the cost of the full-time MBA tuition fee. CRAFT scholars are selected for their potential to be near the top of their year and their ability to make a positive contribution to the MBA programme.


2004  MBA Assessment Centre

The first MBA Assessment Centre is run jointly by CCED and the Career Development Service. Students are assessed in various exercises such as case study work and competency interviews by psychologists who provide participants with feedback to identify areas of strength and areas for improvement.

2006  Doughty Centre

Nigel Doughty (MBA 1984) co-founder of Doughty Hanson, one of Europe's largest private equity firms, gives £1.25 million to the School, the largest donation in its history. His gift funds the creation of the Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility. Professor David Grayson CBE becomes its Director.

  • The Cranfield Corporate Partnership launches to enable managers in industry and education to work together. EWS, the rail freight logistics operator, is founding partner with membership limited to 15 companies, including GSK and Microsoft, each committing to work with the School for three years.

2008  Cranfield Venture Day

The School's Bettany Centre hosts its first inaugural Cranfield Venture Day. Launched by Professor Andrew Burke and Dr Stephanie Hussels, it attracts approximately 200 delegates. The one-day conference and networking event is designed for anyone interested or experienced in cutting-edge entrepreneurial performance. Today, led by Director of the Bettany Centre Dr Shailendra Vyakarnam, the event continues to attract large numbers of enthused entrepreneurs each year.

  • The International Centre for Programme Management (ICPM) is established to build on Cranfield's expertise in the area of project management and to undertake research for businesses such as Electronic Data Systems (EDS). EDS provides £1.5 million in sponsorship over three years.


    The New Zealand scholarship is endorsed by the Waitangi Foundation and assists managers of New Zealand origin to complete a Cranfield MBA then return to work in their home country.

2010  Women in Management

The Cranfield Women in Management Association (CWMA) hosts its first conference 'Breaking the Glass Ceiling.' The group meets bi-weekly, inviting high-profile female business leaders to discuss the challenges women face in their careers and ways in which to overcome them.

2012  Evergreen Fund

The Evergreen Fund raises £50,000. Established by past participants of Cranfield's Business Growth Programme (BGP), the Fund enables aspiring entrepreneurs and growing businesses which need financial support to participate in the Programme.

  • Marks & Spencer (M&S) and the School's Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility partner for the M&S Sustainable Retailing Challenge, a competition that offers MBA students from Europe's leading business schools the chance to win £5,000 and the opportunity to present to a prestigious panel of judges.

2014  Queen's Honours List

Four alumni of the School are recognised in the Queen's 2014 New Year Honours list: Warren East (EMBA 1990) CBE for services to the technology industry, Mandie Campbell (BLP 2006) CBE for public service, Charles Matthews (EMBA 1983) OBE for services to technology and innovation, and Marion Regan (BGP 2006) MBE for services to the fruit and vegetable industry.

  • Sir Richard Branson invites MSc in Management (MiM) students to his home to accept a £5,000 prize for winning the National Apprentice Challenge. The team was one of four from Cranfield, out of 250 submissions across 30 UK universities.

2016  Top ranks continue

Cranfield School of Management is ranked 2nd in the UK, 7th in Europe and 1st in the world for the global international reach of our global programmes.  We are also ranked 5th in the world for the quantity and quality of the programmes we develop in collaboration with other business schools. 95% of our customers said if they were to embark on the same programme again, they would choose Cranfield.

  • CCED hosts it first 'Cranfield Associate Network' day where 45 associates from across the School, including Director Maury Peiperl, meet in the CMRI for networked learning and writing workshops, and client case studies.


    Cranfield starts to prepare to celebrate its 50th anniversary, including the launch of a '50 Entrepreneurs' initiative led by the Bettany Centre and the introduction of 50 Scholarships for MBAs for the anniversary cohorts.

2017Cranfield School of Management turns 50

Today Cranfield School of Management is one of the most prestigious business schools in Europe, with students and faculty from more than 30 countries. We have one of the deepest and most influential alumni networks in the world and we are highly ranked in the major global league tables, with an MBA programme that is No 1 for student experience. We are No 1 for teaching and learning in organisational behaviour and No 3 for economics. Our company-specific executive programmes have been ranked Top 10 for three years running. We lead in the science and management of global futures and boardroom diversity. Our Business Growth Programme typically produces 19% post-programme growth for entrepreneurial owner-managers. We could not be more proud of where we are today and we are excited for the years to come.

In August 2017 Professor Lynette Ryals was appointed as new Interim Director of Cranfield School of Management. Professor Ryals succeeds Professor Maury Peiperl as Director and becomes the first woman to take up the position in the School’s 50-year history.