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B-School Dean Calls Two-Year MBA Market ‘Saturated’ & ‘Dangerous’

Bert de Reyck is the director of the new School of Management at University College of London

Bert de Reyck is the director of the new School of Management at University College of London

University College London apparently is getting a sober lesson in business by coming to a mature market late with a new busines school that isn’t quite a year old. Fearful that a full-time, two-year MBA program would ultimately be a flop, the school’s inaugural director has decided to forego what is the flagship degree of most business schools.

Instead, says Bert de Reyck, University College London’s School of Management will go to market with a part-time executive MBA program, yet another crowded market with many big players, and specialized master’s degrees in business, where some of the largest growth has already occurred over the past five years.

Professor de Reyck told the Financial Times that launching a standalone MBA at this time would be “dangerous” because he believes the MBA market is “saturated” and showing signs of decline. He made the remarks at the opening of the school’s campus on the 38th floor of One Canada Square in Canary Wharf in London. The floor boasts two classrooms, with capacities of 70 and 85.


Just this week, however, Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business announced that it reached a new record in applications to its MBA program, with 19.5 candidates competing for each of the 417 seats in this year’s incoming class (see Stanford Bumps Class GMATs Up Four Points). This past year, MBA applications have been up at Yale, Michigan, Kellogg, UC-Berkeley, UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, Harvard and Wharton, among others. The biggest single reported increase—35%—has been at MIT Sloan, while apps were up 12% at Berkeley’s Haas School and 6% at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management.

A recent report by the Graduate Management Admission Council found that more schools are reporting declines in applications to two-year MBA programs than those reporting increases (MBA Applications For Two-Year Program In Slump). The decline, however, appears to reflect a flight to quality with second- and third-tier programs most largely reporting down numbers.

Even though University College London is highly regarded as a university, its still fledgling business school has a long way to go before being considered world class. “If you are one of the top players it is still a good market to be in,” Professor de Reyck told the Financial Times. “But if you are not, there is high risk.”

One of two classrooms at UCL's Canary Wharf home in London

One of two classrooms at UCL’s Canary Wharf home in London


Director de Reyck was quoted by the FT saying that specialized master’s degrees are “low-hanging fruit” and appears to be more focused on their creation as a result. Among the courses which will be taught in the Canary Wharf space are the MSc Management, the school’s most popular program so far, the MSc Technology Entrepreneurship program and new MSc Business Analytics and MSc Finance programs. Undergraduate programs will continue to be based at the UCL Bloomsbury campus, the school said.

De Reyck also told the FT that UCL has formed a partnership with the National School of Development at Peking University to offer a joint MBA degree.

After earning his PhD in operations management from the University of Leuven in Belgium in 1998, he landed his first teaching position at the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University. Within a year, however, he jumped to London Business School as an assistant professor in decision sciences. In the 2005-2006 academic year, de Reyck was a visiting professor at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. He joined University College London’s department of management science and innovation in 2009 and was tapped to become the inaugural director in August of 2015 when the new school of management replaced UCL’s department of management science and innovation.


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.