The Business School (formerly Cass) name change FAQs

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?

In June 2020, we found out through media reports looking into the history of prominent London philanthropists that our namesake, Sir John Cass, had strong connections to the slave trade. Discovering the truth about our namesake genuinely came as a shock.

In 2001, when we accepted the donation of £5 million pounds to fund our new building and agreed to adopt Sir John Cass’s name, we carried out due diligence on the Sir John Cass Foundation, which funds educational opportunities for underprivileged communities in East London. We did not look at the man who was the source of the Foundation’s wealth and what taking Sir John Cass’s name might imply – that is a source of sincere regret.

We are a Business School with a global reach and a global outlook. But we are also fundamentally a British institution with deep roots in the City of London. We have valued relationships with the great institutions of the City of London, the banks, the insurers and the professional service firms. However, the City of London has a complicated history that is deeply intertwined with slavery. The Royal African Company was set up to organise and profit from the Atlantic slave trade. It shipped more African slaves to the Americas than any other institution in history.  It was a highly profitable business and most people of note working in the City at the time would have profited from it in some way.

Sir John Cass was not a distant shareholder in the company. He worked directly for it and in his role on the Executive Committee; he set budgets and gave detailed instructions to the captains of slave ships. These instructions included everything from the prices of the enslaved people on board, to the records kept of how many died while being transported. Sir John Cass would have been fully aware of the human cost incurred in obtaining his wealth.

Neither his philanthropy, nor the passage of time will erase the suffering he caused and the persisting inequality that slavery has contributed to creating in the world today. The effects of slavery are still present in society. This is not an issue of the past; it is an issue of the present. Racism and structural inequalities for Black people persist, even hundreds of years after the abolition of slavery.

More broadly, the exploitation of others through seemingly legitimate business practices remains a source of wealth for many individuals and corporations. As a Business School, we have a role to play in addressing these problems and inequalities. Repudiating the name of a slave trader is a first step in that direction.
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.

To retain the Cass name would send a strong, negative message about our values and priorities as an institution. 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.

On 25th September 2020, our Dean Professor Paolo Volpin held a Town Hall event with alumni to explain the decision and its implications in more detail. If you would like more information, you can watch a recording of this event and see a transcript of his speech.

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. We welcome your feedback and suggestions on how best to do this.

The name change is a unique opportunity to build a better Business School and to make meaningful changes. We have fully embraced this opportunity and are working on a range of exciting initiatives.

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).

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 prospective students? Are they still joining ‘Cass’ Business School in September 2021?

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.

However, in terms of just the name: No. As of September 2021, we will have our new name and will no longer be named Cass Business School. However, we will retain (formerly Cass) for a while longer so that everyone knows which Business School we are.

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. It would take us several months to update our website with the new name alone. 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. Once we have identified our new name, we will change everything as soon as possible. Until then, you will still encounter the Cass name.

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 goal 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.

Relationship with the Foundation

How is the Foundation financially linked to the Business School?

Following the initial donation of £5 million to help fund our new building in 2001, the Foundation has supported the School in several initiatives including the funding of student scholarships and the co-sponsoring of engagement programmes with primary and secondary schools in London.

Will you return the money to the Foundation?

No. We received the money from the Foundation in good faith and it has been used to support many students over the last 18 years. We are developing a scholarship fund to support even more students over the next 10 years. More details will follow soon.

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.

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?

No. The certificate is for a ‘City University London’ degree (before 2016) or a ‘City, University of London’ degree (since 2016) as City is the awarding body. There are a few exceptions to this naming convention, and if your degree certificate does in fact mention Cass, please contact us and we will look into this for you.

Will you issue alumni new transcripts with the new name?

Potentially. We have received this question from several alumni and are currently looking into how practicable this would be.

How can I contact you?

If you have any questions related to our change name, please email

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.

The School has recently appointed two Co-Directors for Racial Equality and Inclusion. Their remit is to develop and implement the School’s strategy for racial equality and inclusion. In addition, the School has established a task force to review the curriculum.

More details on these initiatives will be announced as they become available.

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.