If all goes to plan the two will merge in the second half of this year with Henley being known as Henley Business School at the University of Reading.
The plans will allow Henley to increase the size of its full time MBA programme, increase its corporate and executive education, give it access to Reading’s international business research and help it to compete against other global leading business schools such as London Business School, Insead and IMD.
Reading University has a strong undergraduate programme and also offers pre-experience programmes and a doctoral programme. It is one of the UK’s most research-intensive universities and twenty of its departments were rated 5 or above in the last Research Assessment Exercise. Its business school has more than 1,600 students and is the largest school within the university.
Henley has a wide-ranging postgraduate portfolio and is one of the largest providers of MBA education in the world.
“The Henley portfolio is very complementary,” says Christopher Bones, principal of Henley Management College. “There is very little overlap in this and will allow us to hit the ground running very quickly.”
The school made the decision to seek a merger partner last year, after analysing the strategic changes underway in the business school industry.
“The role of the smaller and medium-sized player in this global market is coming to an end. You need cash and scale to play effectively,” says Mr Bones.
Henley has doubled its corporate education business in two years and its research impact is heading in the right direction, he adds. The Henley brand has global potential and therefore global competitors, with “serious endowments, capital platforms and major giving programmes”.
Henley he says was not established with an endowment in mind and has survived on the surplus from its programmes.
“Whilst having a very strong brand and a very strong position, it has to come along with cash. We have come a lot further than anyone thought we could have done, but ingenuity has to give way to finance.”
The school can be among the world’s very, very best schools adds Mr Bones, but to do so it has to continue its investment programme.
Reading University he says, ticks all the right boxes. It offers the asset base of a bigger partner, is a leading research university and has strong contacts in Asia, Africa and India.
Initial reaction to the proposal from Henley faculty has been extremely positive, says Mr Bones. Mr Bones, who has been principal at Henley for the past three years, is committed to the Henley project, which he describes as one of the most “exciting brands in business education”.
It is anticipated that Henley’s EMBA programme and corporate education will be delivered at Henley’s current site, and will grow in size, whilst the full time MBA and pre-experience programmes will be delivered at Reading’s White Knight campus.
Henley’s full-time 2008 MBA programme, which begins in a few weeks, is heading towards 30 participants, small by many school’s standards. Mr Bones says the smaller cohort has been due to the physical constraints of the school and he would anticipate growing the full-time programme to 50 or 60 students in the future.
The school is due to launch an EMBA programme with the International Management Institute in St Petersburg, Russia in the spring of next year and has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Sabanci University in Istanbul, Turkey, which Henley is hoping to build into an active collaboration on a joint portfolio.
If the merger goes ahead Henley Business School will have complete autonomy and will be a distinct and separate entity from Reading University, with its own faculty and fund-raising powers.