Rotterdam School of Business at Erasmus University
Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062PA, Netherlands
Telephone: +31 (0)10 408 9628
In shopping for an MBA program, Maeve Quigley says, “My main goal is I want to go and work in economic development in emerging markets. So my main focus is working with people in poverty and poverty alleviation.”
But when she told this seemingly paradoxical – if not heretical – concept to administrators at some MBA programs in the U.S., Quigley says she was often met with a blank stare. “’Oh, you should go into NGO management,’” she recalls being told. Or they would suggest she redefine her goals to fit a pre-existing study platforms.MBA program.
Quigley, however, was steadfast. “‘I don’t actually aspire to be in the NGO world, let me make that clear,”’ she said. “‘I want to leverage the tools of the private sector for the poor… Essentially make ‘doing good,’ good for business.’”
When she presented her concept to the administrators at the Rotterdam School of Management, at Erasmus University, rather than trying to shoe-horn her into a more standard MBA experience, they embraced the uniqueness of her idea, and encouraged her to pursue it.
It’s a logical conclusion for a school that revels in its diversity, and not just in tack points on a map but in ideas. “Students should be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” says Maryke Luijendijk-Steenkamp, the director of marketing and admissions. “At Rotterdam, you’re surrounded by people with different nationalities, cultural and business backgrounds.”
Indeed, 98% of the school’s MBA students here are from outside the Netherlands. Little more than 10% of the students come from North America. Nearly 40% are European, with the rest coming from around the globe. It helps that the RSM MBA is recognized by the Dutch Government as a qualifying degree for a one year post-study job search visa and knowledge migrant residency permit.
Near or far the school requires students have a minimum of two years work experience, and Luijendijk-Steenkamp says members of the current class have an average of six years experience.
“We do value people with solid work experience,” says Luijendijk-Steenkamp, explaining, “What you bring to the table, and how you will add value to the classroom discussions matters.”
Quigley, for example, is a Madison, Wisconsin native, who returned home after completing a dual major in economics and policy studies at Rice University. Upon her return, she co-founded two NGO’s; subsequently joined the Peace Corps in Thailand; then came back to the U.S. to take a job with a consulting company that focused on international development and management. She worked there for four and one-half years before applying to Rotterdam, one of the best business schools in Europe.
Poets&Quants ranks the 12-month MBA experience 19th among the best non-U.S. schools and 16th best in Europe. The Financial Times recently ranked RSM 33rd on its global MBA list. Rotterdam’s highest ranking comes from Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which in 2012 placed the school 17th on its international list of the top full-time MBA programs. The magazine’s survey of recent graduates shows that they value the school for its emphasis on sustainability–a theme woven into the majority of classes in the MBA curriculum–and the small yet remarkably diverse collection of students.
On the other hand, students say the school could do a better job marketing itself and should update and improve the facilities. In common with many MBAs, they also believe the career development center could do a better job helping graduates connect with their preferred employers. Yet, the top five employers at the school are an impressive bunch of brand name corporations: Philips, Amazon, KPMG, Samsung, and Nike.
For 2012, 73% of the MBA graduates stayed in Europe for their first post-MBA position, with the majority (52%) of MBA graduates remaining in the Netherlands.
While the school is keen to promote its international bonafides, administrators insist that students planning to pursue a career in a domestic business will also benefit from the international exposure at RSM.
“I think Nairobi, Europe, wherever you are nowadays, it is fairly impossible not to have an international mindset,” says Luijendijk-Steenkamp. “If you are operating domestically in the US, what happens in Africa tomorrow (can) have an effect on your market. So you need to be able to read the global economic trends”
Her deputy Bart Scheenaard points to the tsunami-induced nuclear disaster in Fukushima two years ago as a tangible example of an event in one part of the world where the ramifications ricocheted around the globe. In particular he pointed to how Germany quickly moved to pull the plug on its own nuclear power industry shortly after the tsunami slammed into the Japanese coast, forcing ostensibly domestic businesses in Germany to suddenly reconsider their energy supplies.
As the world changes, Erasmus is constantly trying to keep pace. Luijendijk-Steenkamp ticks off a litany of new developments at the school in the five years she has been there: A field trip to the European Parliament in nearby Brussels, (“To get a sense of Europe as an entity and how does it interact with the rest of the world,” says. Luijendijk-Steenkamp); a field trip to China (for those who sign-up; a dual degree program with the Chinese University of Hong Kong allows students to split their study 50-50 between Rotterdam and Hong Kong. Most of those who sign up for the program are not Chinese students but rather foreigners who plan to work in China after graduation and want greater contacts and insights into the world’s second largest economy.
Gender balance is still a work in progress, according to Luijendijk-Steenkamp. She says woman make up just 33% of the 150-student body but that the number is up from 27% when she started working here five years ago, and that they are continuing to push for gender parity. “We do a lot of women empowerment type of initiatives,” she says, pointing to one elective for women that involves taking them up Mount Kilimanjaro.
Outside the classroom, “We’ve revamped our career development center,” she says. “We employ more career coaches who can really work with our students individually.”
Plus, they’ve also instituted an online mentoring program that brings together – virtually at least – current students with some 5,000 alumni of the school, scattered across 86 chapters around the globe.
“We assign an alum who has similar interests to a particular student,” Luijendijk-Steenkamp says, “to mentor him or her. Guiding them and helping them embark on their career search.”
Born and raised in South Africa, where she did a stint in corporate communications at North-West University, Luijendijk-Steenkamp was involved in hotel management in the United Kingdom just prior to joining RSM.
Luijendijk-Steenkamp, who originally signed on for a one-year contract says the ability to implement new programs in short order is part of what makes her job interesting, and compels her to stay. “We’re very adaptive to change,” she says.. “If we see something we think we need to change to stay ahead of the curve, we’re in a position to dream up these projects and make it happen in a very short period of time. It’s not like huge universities where the wheels turn quite slowly, and just to get a project approved can take three years. So that keeps it really exciting, which is why I love it.”
The Rotterdam School of Management is affiliated with Erasmus University and it taps heavily into the university’s research, Luijendijk-Steenkamp explains. “But we’re a separate entity in a sense, so we can operate like a business.” Luijendijk-Steenkamp says the school’s ability to respond quickly to the students’ changing demands will continue to keep RSM relevant.
Her view of rankings? “Oh, the rankings it’s always going to be a contentious issue,” Luijendijk-Steenkamp says. “My answer to that is I think there is a place for rankings – it is such a mind field out there. The rankings have a place when it comes to differentiating between quality.”
Still, she urges students to go beyond the rankings – like closely examining the different programs and talking to alumni before choosing where to study.
“What I find sad sometimes is that rankings are becoming such a key key factor when students are making a decision,” she said. “It’s impossible for a ranking to show what a school is truly about – I call it a necessary evil.”
Quigley said she had some doubts choosing RSM over some other MBA programs because some of the professors hail from universities in Canada and England that are little known in the United States. But, she said, “My expectations have been totally exceeded, which is awesome.”
Still, she does find one aspect of RSM worrying, “I think the biggest gap that we all have, and all of us are acutely aware of it, is we have a really strong ranking and a reputation that doesn’t match that ranking – so lack of name recognition of the RSM brand, quite frankly, is a big obstacle that we have.”
Latest Up-to-Date Rankings:
Poets&Quants (2012): 19 (non-U.S.)
BusinessWeek (2012): 17 (international)
Forbes (2011): NR
Financial Times (2013): 33 (global), 16 (non-U.S.)
The Economist (2012): 64 (global), 28 (non-U.S.)
The Rotterdam School of Management significantly improved its standing in Poets&Quants’ 2012 ranking, moving up 10 places to rank 19th among the best non-U.S. schools. The improved performance in our composite ranking can largely be attributed to Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s 2012 list of the best full-time MBA programs. The magazine ranked RSM 17th among international schools after not ranking the school at all in its previous 2010 ranking.
BusinessWeek, which largely ranks schools based on graduate satisfaction and corporate recruiter opinion surveys, found that Rotterdam came in 18th on its international recruiter poll and 11th on its international graduate survey. The school, however, did not receive a single “A+” or “A” grade–reserved for the top 45% scores in satisfaction among grads–in any measured category, from the quality of the teaching in the MBA program to graduate opinions about the caliber of their classmates. Instead, RSM was a straight “B” player.
As one recent graduate told BusinessWeek, “RSM needs to increase its fundraising efforts and clearly establish a branding and marketing strategy. Facilities could be improved upon/updated, and the Career Development Center’s services could also be improved upon by offering more resources and assistance to students, in order to help them connect to their preferred employers.”
On a more positive note, however, another recent MBA graduate praised the school for its emphasis on leadership, responsibility, sustainability and global thinking. “RSM not only gave me all of the tools and learning any other business school would, but made me consider how I could become a better business professional, and really make an impact in the business world,” he said.
In The Financial Times’ 2013 ranking, the school slipped three places to a global rank of 33rd from 30 in 2012. That still placed Rotterdam as the 16th best school outside the U.S.–a fairly impressive showing.
The Economist, which uses a different methodology than the FT, was not as generous to RSM. In 2012, the British magazine ranked the school 64th on its global MBA list and 28th among schools outside the U.S.
Total Tuition & Fees: $50,515
Average GMAT: 662
GMAT Range: NA
Average GPA: NA
GPA Range: (mid-80%): NA
Acceptance Rate: 56%*
Full-Time MBA Intake: 150
Mean Age: 29
Average Work Experience: 6 years
Average Base Salary: $86,163
Average Signing Bonus: $12,000
Percentage of MBAs with Job Offers at Graduation: 65%
Percentage of MBAs with Job Offers Three Months Later: 84%