UCL cancels plans for standalone MBA programme

Management school’s director Bert de Reyck blames uncertainty over demand

University College London, one of the world’s highest-ranked universities, has cancelled plans for a standalone MBA programme at its new business school, citing concerns about demand for such courses.

The decision comes barely a year after UCL launched its school of management. At that time, the school’s director, Bert de Reyck, said the school would create both a part-time executive MBA and a full-time two-year programme.

But launching a standalone MBA at this stage would be “dangerous” because of uncertainty over demand, Prof de Reyck said during an interview for the opening of the school’s campus on the 38th floor of One Canada Square, Canary Wharf’s central skyscraper.

The MBA market is “saturated” and showing signs of decline, he added, citing recent figures from the Graduate Management Admission Council, which showed a fall in applications for full-time two-year MBA programmes, particularly at US business schools.

“If you are one of the top players it is still a good market to be in,” Prof de Reyck added. “But if you are not, there is high risk.”

Instead of creating its own programme, the school of management has formed a partnership with the National School of Development at Peking University to offer a joint MBA qualification.

UCL will create more specialist postgraduate business degree programmes — which Prof de Reyck described as the “low-hanging fruit” — such as a masters in finance degree which is planned to start next year.

One of the advantages of setting up a business school from scratch was that decisions to change courses could be made quickly, Prof de Reyck noted.

The creation of the school of management has been part of an ambitious £1.25bn expansion plan for UCL, which recently prompted the provost to warn staff that the institution was now in “a barely financially sustainable situation”.

Prof de Reyck, who was headhunted from London Business School to oversee the creation of the school of management, said a merger with his former employer had been mooted, but the idea was dismissed because UCL felt it could do better starting from scratch.

The school of management has been created within UCL’s engineering department and is promoting itself as a specialist in entrepreneurship, innovation, technology and analytics.

“We noticed a gap in the market,” Prof de Reyck said.

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