Henley Business School has decided to cancel its full-time MBA for the 2019/2020 academic year. The school’s single-year MBA program, which typically begins every September, fell five places to a rank of 60th on the latest Poets&Quants’ international ranking of the best MBAs outside the U.S.
In a terse announcement on its website announcing what it calls a “pause,” the school notes that the time off is being used “to enable us to fully review this sector of the MBA market and to decide how Henley should best address the needs of those in the earlier stages of their careers.”
The school, which was founded in 1945, says that the decision is not a signal that the MBA is underperforming, but part of a wider overhaul of all its programs. “This is not about rectifying something that is wrong, it is about taking steps to position the MBA so that it can continue to be good value for money and provide the experience, learning and development that an MBA should provide candidates for the next 10-15 years,” says Elena Beleska-Spasova, head of post-experience postgraduate programmes. The new-look MBA will include more competence and experience-based elements.
The one-year program’s annual intake is a mere 30 students, drawn from roughly 210 applicants. MBA applications have been down for many European and U.S. schools in the past few years, partly because of a strong economy that keeps people out of graduate school and an explosion in Asian schools offering English-language MBAs. Henley has traditionally recruited heavily from Asia.
‘APPLICATIONS HAVE BEEN VOLATILE GEOGRAPHICALLY’
“Applications have been volatile geographically, we have fewer Asians these days and visa changes have led to a drop in Indian students, but overall numbers have remained the same,” says Beleska-Spasova. In common with other UK schools, Henley insists that worries around the post-Brexit situation have not affected applications.
Henley’s best ranking performance is typically in The Economist where its full-time MBA is ranked 5th best in the United Kingdom, just behind Warwick, London, Cambridge and Bath, and 14th in Europe. Because it has a small cohort it does not qualify for the Financial Times’ ranking, which requires a minimum of at least 20 fully completed responses from a single class, which would mean an outsized response rate of 67% from Henley.
In October, Henley will launch a new global, multi-campus Executive MBA with legs in several European countries. Interest is so keen that the school is adding a second intake. The schools say they have also seen strong interest in the Levy MBA, funded by a UK government scheme.
EXPECTS TO LAUNCH MORE SPECIALIZED MASTER’S DEGREES IN BUSINESS
Master’s courses have proved increasingly popular, too, and now include a master’s in management, leadership, strategic marketing, and board directorships, as well as an MSC in coaching. A number of additional specialized master’s programs will launch soon, too.
With so many new programs to choose from, what is the role of the school’s full-time MBA? “It is for more senior people who are looking to move into positions with a lot of responsibility and a global mandate,” believes Beleska-Spasova. “And increasingly it is for entrepreneurs who want to start their own businesses.”
Could the changes at Henley be a sign that more radical change is coming to the UK’s business school landscape? Unlike U.S. schools which often have huge endowments, European schools need their courses to be profitable. MBAs, which are labor-intensive to run, are far from being money-spinners, and some schools keep theirs going simply because they feel they ought to.
But if class sizes are small and other programs are increasingly popular, an MBA program could soon become hard to justify. Henley’s is only going into hibernation, but don’t be surprised if in the near future another school takes the plunge and decides that its MBA just isn’t worth the trouble.