INSIDE HIGHER ED. MAY 30, 2013. Alumni of the Thunderbird School of Global Management are protesting plans for the nonprofit business school to create a joint venture with for-profit Laureate Education. The joint venture would allow Thunderbird to set up programs at some of Laureate's network of campuses around the world. A petition signed by nearly 2,000 alumni says: "For-profit education may have its place, but it certainly does not align with the goals, culture or mission of Thunderbird. Furthermore, this selling out of the Thunderbird name will further dilute the brand, and as a result cheapen the value of the degree." The petition cites various investigations of for-profit higher education, and also questions why alumni were not consulted about the possible impact of the alliance on the reputation of their alma mater. Many of those posting comments on the petition cite concerns about for-profit higher education generally, not Laureate specifically, but argue that Thunderbird would be linked to the sector, not just Laureate. "When I tell people I got my M.B.A. from Thunderbird, I would like that to have meaning and not drawing comparisons to University of Phoenix," wrote one alumnus.
Thunderbird has created a webpage devoted to providing information about the collaboration and how it might help the institution. A spokeswoman said via e-mail that some of the criticisms of for-profit higher education made in the petition do not apply to Laureate. "We believe strongly that the Thunderbird-Laureate partnership is a strategic one that will enable Thunderbird to realize its academic mission while providing financial sustainability over the long term," she said. "The partnership with Laureate is a complex arrangement. We have been as transparent as possible about the partnership plans, within the constraints of the MOU. We look forward to sharing more information with our stakeholders, especially alumni, about the specifics of how this partnership will positively impact Thunderbird. We believe there will be even greater support when we are able to do so."