Thunderbird, the Arizona business school, has officially announced the termination of talks with Baltimore-based Laureate Education, the for-profit company with which the business school had hoped to form an alliance. The proposed alliance was rejected by the US Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Thunderbird’s accrediting body, in March.
Shortly after the HLC decision Thunderbird president Larry Penley told the FT that although the school was renegotiating the deal with Laureate, it was open to offers from other potential partners. One name that has been circulating widely in this regard is Hult, the business school with campuses around the world, including Boston and London.
Thunderbird, which, like Hult, is noted for teaching international business, will now have to go back to the drawing board if it is to find a partner to help it clear its debt and expand globally. This could be hampered by requirements from the HLC that the school has to seek its approval to launch degrees in new locations. Additionally, Thunderbird has been approved under HLC policy only to teach up to 20 per cent of its total degree programmes through distance education.
In a further twist to the saga, the Thunderbird Independent Alumni Association (TIAA), which was set up to oppose the Laureate deal, also announced this week that the Thunderbird board had rejected its bid to pour cash into the school. In return for the undetermined sum of money, the TIAA expected the school to open its accounts to the alumni organisation and for members of the board of trustees to resign. The TIAA proposal required “a reconfiguration of the board to include a super majority of Thunderbird alumni”, according to a statement.