John McFarlane (MBA 1975)

John McFarlane

MBA, 1975
Chairman, Aviva
Inaugural Cranfield Distinguished Alumnus
Patron, Cranfield Australian Alumni Scholarship Foundation

What was I doing when I decided to do the MBA
Having graduated from Edinburgh University 5 years earlier, I had spent 5 years with Ford in UK in manufacturing. I wanted to move into Finance or Marketing and felt that an MBA would be the best way of doing this. Unlike in the US, in those days the MBA was less recognised than an accounting qualification, and it felt somewhat pioneering.

Why I chose Cranfield
Although the US was more attractive, cost drove the decision to study in the UK. I applied to LBS, MBS and Cranfield and was accepted by all. I chose Cranfield as it seemed the most pragmatic, and was 12 full months rather than two academic years. Interestingly when I joined Citibank on graduating in 1975, they sent me to the London Business School just to make sure. It is easier the second time round.

What I got out of it
In essence it allowed me to change career and to move up a gear in career terms. The MBA in those days was more knowledge-building than skill-building, but set me up with the language of business, and a basic understanding of the key disciplines in business. There is no doubt it advanced my career and, of course my income, and was a great foundation for things to come. I was later on Cranfield’s Advisory Board for some years while it existed, and have remained in touch over the past 32 years, lecturing there on occasion.




A speech given by our Patron, John McFarlane “Where to Play and How to Win – Challenging the Role of Corporations in Society (University of Melbourne’s 2005 Town and Gown dinner)