The Business School (formerly Cass) is one of City, University of London’s five Schools. It’s among Europe’s leading business schools and in the global elite of business schools that hold the gold standard of ‘triple-crown’ accreditation.

The Business School (formerly Cass) is world-renowned for its:

  • Balanced practical and theoretical education for undergraduate, MBA and MSc students, and those on PhD and executive programmes
  • Knowledgeable academic staff with hands-on industry experience, long-term links to business and thriving research
  • Strong connections with City firms, international business and our community of students, alumni, and partners.

The Business School (formerly Cass) announces name change

On 9th June 2020, several media outlets reported the historic link of Sir John Cass to the slave trade.

City, University of London’s Business School was renamed the Sir John Cass Business School only 18 years ago (in 2002) following a donation from the Sir John Cass Foundation, an educational charity which provides financial support to several organisations.

Unlike other institutions with links to Sir John Cass which, in some cases, immediately announced a name change, City has a contract with the Foundation which includes use of the Cass name. On 17th June, the Sir John Cass Foundation announced that they themselves would stop using the Cass name. The Business School submitted a recommendation to rename itself to City’s Council.

A meeting of the Council on Friday 3rd July agreed that the Business School would separate from the Cass name and embark on a period of consultation to find the new name.


The decision

Why did you take the decision to change the name?

The name of a leading business school like ours is not just a brand, it is a public space. It represents our institutional values and it plays a part in shaping the geography of the City of London. Who gets to claim this public space matters. It signals who we value, whose voice we judge as worthy of being heard and who we include and exclude. If you look at our name from this perspective, rather than thinking of it as only a Higher Education brand, it quickly becomes clear that our name does not actually belong to us – it belongs to society at large.

The history of London and in particular the City of London, is deeply intertwined with the history of slavery. We did not do due diligence on Sir John Cass back in 2002 when we named the School, we only investigated the Foundation. In hindsight, this was clearly a mistake and we should have known better.

Academic institutions play an important role in society as truthtellers. As an institution dedicated to understanding and improving the business world through research and education, we cannot hide from the truth of what our name represents. The mentality that underpinned the slave trade still exists within our society: racism is pervasive and systemic. An elite business school is a place of privilege and power. Every institution has a moral responsibility, but ours is arguably even greater. We cannot respond to this challenge with inaction. Instead, we must scrutinise and confront our history to find out if it matches our values - even if the consequences are painful.

Therefore, it is our position that it is simply not tenable to honour the legacy of Sir John Cass through the name of our Business School.

We know that this decision has significant consequences for all our community. We know that there are strong emotions on all sides of the issue. We hope that through our actions in the coming months and years, we will convince those who are critical that this is the right choice and that it is in fact a unique opportunity to build a better Business School and a better brand.

Should we really judge Sir John Cass’s actions in the 17th century with the moral standards of the 21st century?

Yes. We take the view that we should make judgements about the norms and actions of any given historical period by looking at the variety of ways in which these norms and actions were resisted and opposed by marginalised or oppressed groups. The way we engage with history signals who matters and whose stories we judge as important. If we only tell the stories of the dominant groups of the time, we historicise selectively and write out the agency of those who were oppressed.

Just because the slave trade was socially accepted in some countries during the lifetime of Sir John Cass does not mean we should not be critical of his deeds now. We must acknowledge the suffering that his business interests have inflicted on Black people. This suffering is not lessened by whether it was deemed socially acceptable by some at the time. Slavery was as morally wrong then as it is now.

Aren’t you just erasing history by changing the name? Is this cancel culture?

History is the whole reason we are changing the name. The historical context around slavery still underpins racism in society today. The removal of names linked with slavery is not simply an apology for historical acts, nor an "erasure" of history, but an active attempt to fight racism in the present day.

Our purpose as an institution is to research, learn, and educate. We have a responsibility to turn our name change into a learning opportunity, rather than treating it as an embarrassment that is to be ‘cancelled’. As such, we have no intention of erasing our past. We are thinking of ways in which we will actively remember our name change and the reasons for it going forward. Current ideas include a “counter memorial” for Cass, such as a physical reminder of our name change, and/or a Cass-named Annual Lecture Series about Slavery in Society. We welcome your feedback and suggestions on how best to do this.

The name change is a unique opportunity to be better and to make meaningful changes. We are working on a range of important initiatives that we will announce in due course.

The consultation process for finding a new name

How will the process of consultation to agree the new name be run?

We will be consulting key stakeholders, including students, alumni and staff on a new name for the School as part of the renaming process. Over the last few weeks, we have been thinking deeply about how to run a broad, inclusive and open consultation. Our goal is to consider all perspectives from within our community.

We are setting up a Naming Steering Committee with broad representation from our community that will set out the details of the consultation, oversee the consultation, and make the final naming recommendation to Council.

Hunada Nouss has agreed to chair this Steering Group. She has a stellar track record in business and acts as Chair and Board Member of several audit and risk committees, including at The Royal Society, the Met Office and the Education & Skills Funding Agency. She was the Business School contact on Council for many years and has recently stepped down from this role to act as an independent. We are confident that the Naming Steering Group is in safe hands under her leadership.

Michael Brown, Partner and Head of Insight and Cross Culture at the media agency UM (Universal McCann) joins the Steering Committee to add the perspective of an external partner and employer. Michael has a deep understanding of marketing, branding, and research, and he also leads UM’s diversity & inclusion teams.

Matthew Hubbard will represent the alumni on the Naming Steering Committee. Matt is a long serving member of the Cass Alumni Board and People Director - Commercial Banking and Group Employee Relations and Policy Transformation - at Lloyds Banking Group. He has considerable experience in the Human Resources area.

The student representative on the Steering Group will be a 2nd year Executive MBA student. We are still confirming the details and will let you know as soon as possible.

The professional staff of the Business School will be represented by Balbir Guru, who heads MBA recruitment and admissions at the Business School, and thus brings an invaluable understanding of the particularly competitive MBA market.

Other members include the Chair of Council Julia Palca; the University President, Professor Sir Paul Curran – to represent City; and Professor Paolo Volpin, Interim Dean of the Business School – to represent academic staff. The Students’ Union will also be represented.

A smaller, more focussed Naming Project Group co-chaired by Tim Longden (our Director of Marketing & External Relations) and Professor Caroline Wiertz (Professor of Marketing at the Business School) will lead on a day-to-day basis. The marketing & comms team will join this Project Group, as well as Dr Marius Luedicke, the Business School’s branding expert. As one of its first orders of business, this Project Group will appoint a reputable branding agency to support the re-naming process. Other Business School experts will be drawn into this group as needed.

As these two groups take up their work in early September, more details on how the consultation process will unfold and how you can get involved will become available.  We will proactively update you of any developments.

What is the exact timeframe? Which students will the consultation and name change impact?

As you might expect, we will take the time needed to ensure we get this right. Through an inclusive consultation process, we will select a name that is reflective of the values and ambition of our School. We are a global institution and the new name must work internationally. We are aiming for an announcement of the new name within the first six months of 2021 and a launch in time for the academic year 2021/22.

This means that students at the Business School during this coming academic year will be heavily involved in the naming process. Students at the Business School from the academic year 2021/22 onwards will be studying at the newly named Business School.

The name and brand of the Business School (formerly Cass)

How will you and how should we refer to the Business School in the period between now and when the new name is launched?

Until we have our new name, our legally trademarked name remains Cass Business School. To signal our commitment to the name change, whenever possible, we will refer to ourselves as the Business School (formerly Cass).

We have heard and understood your concerns regarding the difference in ranking between City and the Business School. We will therefore not refer to ourselves as City’s Business School during this interim period.

Until we have our new name and logo, we will continue to use the Cass logo, but with the additional strap line “Changing more than a name” to signal our commitment to the name change and the wider changes that we want to make in the year to come.

What about students about to join this year? Are they still joining ‘Cass’ business school?

For all intents and purposes: Yes. The fundamentals underpinning our Business School remain unchanged, regardless of our name. We will, of course, always be known for the world-class quality of our education and our research. In addition, we offer our students considerable career opportunities through the Business School’s network and reputation among leading employers.

The name change will in no way affect the student experience, the quality of the academic curriculum, the strength of our alumni network or the renowned thought leadership of our faculty. If anything, this name change represents a unique learning opportunity and a chance to make a lasting impact on the Business School’s future. The steps we take now will define our reputation for decades to come.

Why are you not dropping the Cass name completely and with immediate effect?

Renaming a leading business school is a major undertaking and practically very complicated. For example, our URLs, social media handles and emails contain the name “Cass” – in addition to videos, brochures, signage and so much more. In addition we cannot rush the process of consulting fully with all stakeholder groups such as students and alumni, and doing due diligence on the new name. It will take us several months to update our website with the new name alone. Once we have identified our new name, we will change all of this as soon as possible.

How can you ensure that the new name will have the same brand value as Cass had?

This is a key consideration for our plans for the new name. We are aware that the Cass identity was a strong factor in students’ decision-making process.

It is worthwhile pointing out here the difference between a brand and the brand’s name. The name is undoubtedly an important element – it is the part that makes the brand recognisable. But the brand is so much more. In our case, it is the quality of students, faculty, and alumni; the quality of our teaching and the experience we offer; our thought leadership; our rankings; and everything else that makes our School unique. These elements will not change. So, our mission is to ensure that our stakeholders move the brand associations they had to the new name. This is quite different from building a new brand.

By retaining the association with the Cass name through the addition of ‘(formerly Cass)’ throughout the interim period and for a transition period, we are ensuring that the School will remain recognisable to all our stakeholders (including employers). Once we have identified our new name, we will invest the necessary time and financial resources to publicise the name change and ensure that our reputation as a global leading business school continues to grow. On that front, we have already started to reach out proactively to our global network of strategic partners – from employers and recruiters to media and higher education organisations – to communicate and raise their awareness of the name change. This process will continue over the coming months and will be customised to the specific needs of our main international markets.

How will you communicate the new name so that employers recognise its value?

We will invest heavily in marketing the new name. We have established relationships with major employers around the world. Our Careers Team is in continued dialogue with them, and there will be considerable efforts to ensure that there is widespread understanding and awareness of the new name. Furthermore, our employers know that the fundamentals underpinning the Business School remain unchanged.

Students and alumni FAQs

What should I do with regards to my CV? How should I refer to my education?

Should you choose, you can continue to use the Cass name and branding on your CV until the new name is launched. Where possible, you should refer to us as the Business School (formerly Cass). Once the new name is launched, we would encourage the use of NEW NAME Business School (formerly Cass) for a transition period.

Why has the logo changed again on my LinkedIn profile?

We have clarified the naming convention we will use for the interim period. Because we will refer to ourselves as the Business School (formerly Cass) instead of City’s Business School, we are using the Cass logo wherever possible. We will stick to this convention across all our social media channels until we change to our new name.

I am due to graduate from Cass – which name will be on my degree certificate?

The degree certificate does not include the name of the School, because the degree awarding body is City, University of London. The accompanying transcript does include the School name and will remain Cass until we officially launch the new name.

Will you issue alumni new degree certificates with the new name?

The degree certificate does not include the name of the School, because the degree awarding body is City, University of London. It is therefore not necessary to issue new degree certificates.

How will you reduce potential uncertainty during this period?

We believe that the best way to reduce uncertainty is a broad and open consultation process around the new name which demonstrates that we are taking account of all viewpoints. In addition, we will communicate proactively and frequently with you to keep you informed of all important developments and of any opportunities to get directly involved in the naming process.

If you would like to ask your questions directly to us, we will organise a virtual Town Hall for students and for alumni in mid-September. You will receive an invitation and more information about this event in early September.

Why has it taken so long for you to communicate with us?

We are sorry that it has taken us so long to respond to all your queries and we thank you for your patience. There have been many developments in quick succession over the summer, at a time during which we, like everyone else, are also dealing with the challenges represented by the pandemic, as well as dealing with the unexpected problems of undergraduate admissions.

The name change is a complex situation that needs careful thinking and careful handling. We had to work through many details in the background and were particularly keen to get it exactly right this time.

We now have a clear plan in place to move forward and rise to this extraordinary occasion. Our actions now will make a difference. They will underline our reputation as a global, diverse and inclusive place to work and study. They will enable us to make our own contribution to the wider societal change that is needed. We will use this opportunity to further develop the vision of the Business School to lead the way in business education fit for the radical uncertainties of the future.

Work around Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and addressing racial inequalities

How are you going to ensure that you in fact change more than a name? What commitments are you making with regards to equal support, opportunity and fair representation for different ethnic groups?

This question sits at the heart of our thinking. The Business School has always prided itself on respecting diversity and inclusion. We are a global School with faculty, staff, students and alumni from all over the world. The name change is just one small part of what we are looking to do. We will use the renaming of the School as a conduit to implementing important changes to our operations and our curriculum that will make the school an even more diverse, inclusive, and interesting place of study. There is currently a lot of work happening in the background, but it is not yet advanced enough to share. As more information becomes available, we look forward to proactively updating you with our plan of action.

What are City and Cass doing in relation to Equality, Diversity & Inclusion and specifically addressing racial inequalities?

We are doing a significant amount of work to address racial inequality and to ensure City is an inclusive place to work and study, which will continue. We have listened to the concerns
of the City community about the naming of the Business School and we have also heard about their individual experiences of racism and inequality in today’s world.

On 10th June, we initiated a review of all historic sources of funding to determine if there are any other links with slavery; and to make recommendations. The review is chaired by Ms Hunada Nouss, a member of City’s Council. The composition is drawn from a diverse group of City staff and external independent expertise and is expected to report in August.

We know there is considerable work to do. This article, published on 7th July, outlines some of the work already underway at City and further actions we have committed to undertaking: How City, University of London is working to understand and address racial inequality.

What will the senior team be doing to further the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion work and to address racial inequalities?

The work on Equality, Diversity & Inclusion is championed and supported by senior leadership. The Executive Committee (ExCo) is committed to tackling racial inequalities through action.
To understand how people feel about race and how we can improve race equality at City, we launched a Race Equality Charter survey for students, which ran last year, and one for staff, which will run this month. They will be complemented by “Town Hall” events during July and other activities to ensure staff and student voices are heard.

Implementing the right training is crucial and we are reviewing material for Equality, Diversity & Inclusion, Active Bystander and Inclusive Leadership courses which are now mandatory for all our leaders and managers. We know there is still a long way to go, but this is an important start which allows conversations to be had and understanding to increase.
In June, we launched a review into historic sources of funding, chaired by a member of Council and including representatives from the BAME Staff Network, the Race Equality Charter Self-Assessment Team and the Equality Diversity & Inclusion Committee. The review has already recommended the recent renaming of the Business School and will provide further recommendations in August.