MBA News: Thunderbird Pursues Merger with Arizona State

After suffering an $8.7M loss in 2013 and abandoning plans to team up with for-profit firm Laureate Education, the Thunderbird School of Global Management has found a potential lifeline to allay its financial woes. The business school announced in a press release last week that it signed a letter of intent with Arizona State University (ASU) and will pursue a merger by the end of July, thereby making Thunderbird a separate unit within the ASU system.

The deal will likely allow Thunderbird to cut expenses by integrating its operations and academic resources with those of ASU. “Arizona State’s motivations are less clear,” reports Bloomberg Businessweek, remarking that the university is already home to the W.P. Carey School of Business (Bloomberg Businessweek ranked Carey four spots behind Thunderbird, at number 49, in 2012). “We don’t intend to offer competing MBAs,” commented ASU’s senior vice president, suggesting that some of Thunderbird’s degree programs could be cut or consolidated. The press release similarly states that the intention is to make the two programs “complementary,” though details of what exactly the merger will entail have yet to be specified.

This deal may keep Thunderbird afloat, but it could also meet with resistance from an already embittered alumni community who objected to the controversial Laureate proposal on the grounds that it would cheapen the degree. Between financial challenges and internal division, what the ASU merger will mean for the future of the Thunderbird MBA remains to be seen.

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