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An expert perspective on the US university admissions controversy

Professor Lawrence Abeln, President of Richmond, The American International University in London

In the light of the US universities admissions controversy, Professor Lawrence Abeln, President of Richmond, The American International University in London, who joined the University in August last year (which has campuses in Richmond and Kensington), has extensive experience of the US higher education market and can therefore provide an expert perspective on the issue:

“Having spent five years as Director of the MBA Programme at MIT, one of the top five business schools in the world, I know how much pressure is put on US colleges and universities to offer students places. Many top 20 universities receive ten times as many applicants as they have places.”

“Universities may be approached by individuals of influence either formally by providing reference letters or informally. These individuals of influence can be elected officials, celebrities, prominent alumni or CEOs who may try to apply pressure in different ways to find places for certain students. It’s not just a US phenomenon, it happens elsewhere in the world, exacerbated by a highly competitive market for universities and a focus on brand and reputation.”

“The current scandal related to admissions is a symptom of the corruption of a few individuals and not reflective of the admissions process at the top-ranked universities which uphold the highest standards and entry criteria, ensuring both fairness and equity.  It’s not an epidemic, it’s more due to a few individuals wishing to use their influence, power or money to their advantage.”

“One of the reasons that motivated me to lead the UK’s only US university, which lives and breathes its motto, is ‘Unity in Diversity’.  With a US liberal arts heritage which emphasises a well-rounded education, the ethos at Richmond focuses on diversity and inclusion, with a truly international cohort of students.  It’s an ethos which was created by the social entrepreneur and politician, Sir Cyril Taylor, who wanted Richmond to have a, ‘Scholarly yet social purpose’, and for all students to have access to international learning opportunities regardless of any differences in ethnicity, religion, gender or economic status.”

Professor Lawrence Abeln is a US citizen, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with BA in History from the University of Pennsylvania. He received an MPhil in International Relations and PhD in Management from the University of Cambridge, where he studied labour economics as a Rotary Foundation Scholar. 

Professor Abeln has had a distinguished career in academic leadership and strong international background including posts at top 100 QS world-ranked research institutions, including Cambridge and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Having begun his academic career at MIT, Professor Abeln was appointed Director of the MBA Programme at MIT Sloan School of Management in 1995. At the age of 26, he was the youngest director of any internationally ranked MBA in the world at the time.

Richmond, The American International University in London offers undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes and is the only University in the UK which provides students with a UK and US degree.  The University is based across two campuses in London, in Richmond and Kensington, with additional sites in Florence, Rome and Leeds. 

Richmond teaches in the liberal arts tradition which provides students with a broad multidisciplinary foundation combined with in-depth study in a specific area of interest.

While Richmond does take in visiting students from US colleges and universities including USC,  the University does not receive any commission or contribution from anyone linked to these students.

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