In his landmark speech on higher education at Greenwich Education Secretary David Blunkett said no single university had the resources to develop world-class capacity across all disciplines. His proposal was that universities should consolidate bilateral links and form new global alliances with overseas institutions.
Mr Blunkett's idea interests Professor Leo Murray, Director of Cranfield University School of Management, because it is promoting internationalism, which he considers important. No business school is comprehensive enough to do all things for all the major corporations all over the world, Professor Murray says.
Therefore schools are entering liaisons of one kind or another. They are also entering into alliances with consultancies and other people who can add to their ability to serve their clients.
Business schools are long experienced in forming global alliances. As strategic alliances have grown in industry, so they have become more serious in business schools, according to Professor Murray. They are much more about joint research projects and joint delivery to client organisations.
"Places like ourselves, London and INSEAD increasingly work in that way. If you are serving the international community you will need international resources. No business school in the world is big enough, comprehensive enough or diverse enough to meet all requirements."
Cranfield recently completed a very large contract to work with Columbia University in New York to design and deliver a series of programmes round the world for the senior managers of a very large international organisation.
What are new, says Professor Murray, are alliances with management consultancies. Cranfield already works with a huge international consultancy. "One of our colleagues is on their US board, we do joint international research, we train a lot of their European consultants in a particular discipline, and they recruit largely our MBAs - yet at the same time we compete."
Moreover Cranfield foresees the creation of knowledge by research consortia, or collaborations with other consultancies or business schools.
Looking ahead, says Professor Murray, "there is absolutely no reason in principle why parts of Cranfield School of Management should not merge with parts of another university, or even a network of these, and be a multi-centre multinational business."
But alliances are fraught with risks. These are explained by Professor Murray's colleague Mitchell Koza, who holds the chair in International Strategic Management at Cranfield. Koza was previously at INSEAD and UCLA in California, and has a particular interest in alliances.
"None of us can go it alone," says Professor Koza. "That means that we either develop internally, and unfortunately the world will not wait for our perfect solutions, or alternatively we do it by merger and acquisition. The reality is that building campus schools, whether through internal development or …