Part II

Adolescence and evolution: the growth of the School’s brand (1984–1999)

The School remains in Delft for more than a decade before moving back to Rotterdam, housed in the F and G building on Erasmus University’s Woudestein campus, in 1984. Leiden University is briefly considered as an alternative home. However, its lack of an economics faculty renders it unsuitable.

F/G building on Erasmus University Woudestein campus

When settled in Rotterdam, the School offers a four year pre-experience programme in management, concluded with a master (Drs) degree. The School becomes part of Erasmus University while retaining independence. Where previously the emphasis was on problem solving, the curriculum shifts towards studying business functions and processes.

➤ A key driver of educational innovation at RSM is the rapid deployment of new technology among staff and students.

In 1984, students on the four-year pre-experience programme are invited to buy personal computers. (Later, in 1998–1999, the Drs2000 project mails out lectures in the form of videos on CD-ROM as a way of offering courses to be studied via computer). In 1985 Minister of Education Wim Deetman (pictured here in middle) formally opens the new F and G building and visits the newly installed and purpose-built computer laboratory where he hears all about the role of the personal computer in modern business education.

New programmes are introduced: a two-year full-time International MBA programme in 1985, and the PhD in Management programme in 1986. A doctoral programme is introduced in 1989.

To guide and structure the development of these and future executive and corporate education offerings, RSM B.V. (a private limited company) is formed. The combined operations of the faculty (providing undergraduate programmes) and the B.V. (offering postgraduate/experience programmes) provide the platform for the School’s continued growth and development.

By the mid-1980s, as the School’s popularity continues to rise, so does the student population. In 1986, as the student population continues to grow and business booms as the words Erasmus, Rotterdam and bedrijfskunde become synonymous, the School changes its name to the Faculteit Bedrijfskunde EUR, known internationally as Rotterdam School of Management (abbreviated to RSM). Because of the case method that trains students to think practically and analytically, graduates of the School are considered well-rounded business practitioners with strong problem-solving skills.

In a buoyant economy, employers turn to RSM for talented hires, often even before the recruits graduate.

For students, the School is the go-to place for those seeking a promising career after their studies.

1987: Students relaxing

Exchange co-ordinator, Linda de Vries, working on one of the first personal computers in the mid-1980s

Also in 1986, student body Sviib organises the first Management Week, and creates study clubs with the School’s academic departments, including marketing and strategy. In addition, the first student almanac is published, a lustrum yearbook of interviews and photos, and the first International Business Study trip takes place.

In 1987, around 2,500 students apply for just 400 places. The university board wants to drop the existing Numerus Fixus method of selecting candidates for popular courses – effectively a lottery controlled by the Dutch government – but the faculty disagrees because of concerns about quality.

RSM B.V. launches the Executive Education department in 1989, which provides open courses and customised programmes backed by experienced research faculty members, for post-experience executives. The philosophy of RSM being a research-driven business school grows as an important distinction in all its offerings.

"Suddenly everyone wanted to study business, and they wanted to study at RSM”

- Prof. Berend Wierenga, Dean of RSM 1987 - 1989

➤ The School receives an international boost on Wednesday 30 August 1989, when its English-language MBA programme is featured in The Wall Street Journal, which describes it as “valedictorian”. It is the first time the School is recognised by the US media. To celebrate the occasion, commemorative t-shirts are made with the newspaper article printed on them. Today, the t-shirts are highly prized possessions. Prof. Berend Wierenga, the School’s dean at that time, recalls that: “People outside of Europe had heard of us. The MBA was a success, and the BSc and MSc programmes were an even bigger success. Suddenly everyone wanted to study business, and they wanted to study at RSM.”

Also in 1989, RSM is admitted into the prestigious Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS) and Partnership in International Management (PIM) student exchange programmes. It is still the only school in the Netherlands to be active in both networks.

Linda de Vries, exchange co-ordinator at the time and later head of RSM’s international office, recalls the exchange programmes beginning in 1988 with a group of 19 students, whom she invites to her house for pancakes.

Graduates at a degree ceremony with RSM's Linda de Vries (in white) together with RSM's Henk van Ruller (first from the right).

Joining CEMS means RSM is part of a global corporate-academic alliance that enables it to offer the prestigious CEMS Master in Management qualification, which attracts high-quality students with global mindsets and international career ambitions. Additionally, the alliance enhances the School’s strong partnerships with top multinationals and business schools around the world. RSM joined the CEMS Consortium in 1989 just a year after its conception. Henk van Ruller, the director of international affairs brought RSM into the Consortium: he was at the right time at the right window.

The School’s first MSc in International Management/CEMS degrees are conferred in 1991, positioning it firmly on the world stage.

Participation in PIM – the first international business student exchange network – further enhances the School’s standing by facilitating co-operation among members, fostering the development of joint programmes, and providing student and faculty exchange experiences with a consortium of leading business schools around the world.

One of the School's first websites in the mid-1990s

Article promoting the Drs. 2000 programme

In 1993, RSM forms the Erasmus Research Institute for Advanced Studies in Management (ERASM) and the Erasmus School of Economics launches its research institute, Rotterdams Instituut voor Bedrijfseconomische Studies (RIBES). In the mid-1990s, the School launches its first website, and students begin using the brand-new Student Information Network (known as SIN-Online), which is designed to enrich the learning experience.

In 1996, at a time when the Netherlands is considered cautious about embracing the potential offered by the information superhighway, the School collaborates with international computer company Compaq and Dutch telecoms provider KPN to develop a pioneering distance-learning project named Drs.2000, which issues multimedia computers with internet connections, enabling students to follow lectures from home and collaborate collectively on projects online. Later, with the arrival of fibre-optic connections, the School enhances its forward-thinking approach to online learning by adopting new ways of teaching and collaborating with students that employ the groundbreaking technological advances of the day, thus further consolidating its reputation as an innovative school that embraces innovation platforms.

In 1995, the Part-time Doctorandus in Business Administration (PTO) and the Executive MBA Programme launch. And in 1999, RSM B.V. creates an additional series of executive education programmes to cater for the growing demand for courses that combine studies with careers.

➤ In 1998, RSM achieves the ‘triple crown’ by becoming accredited by all three international independent accreditation committees;

AACSB (The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), AMBA (The Association of MBAs) and EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System). This makes it one of the one per cent of business schools worldwide that have achieved this distinction.

The department of Business-Society Management launches in 1998. The first of its kind in a European business school, the department’s focus is on the interactions and relationships between business and society, and addressing the real-world challenges of corporate responsibility and sustainability. The groundbreaking work of the department is instrumental in shaping the School’s commitment towards educating students to be critical, independent thinkers with the desire to tackle the world’s ‘wicked problems’ – complex problems that are resistant to resolution and often difficult to recognise.

In 1999, the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) is founded as a joint venture of RSM and the Erasmus School of Economics. ERIM supersedes RIBES, the research institute of the Erasmus School of Economics, and ERASM, and becomes one of Europe’s most prestigious management research facilities. It conducts scientific research that enables organisations to assess and improve business processes and profitability and becomes one of Europe’s leading management research facilities. Prof. Berend Wierenga, one of ERIM’s founders, is appointed as its first scientific director. The advent of ERIM acknowledges the crucial role of research and research-active faculty. It changes the School from a teaching school with mainly Dutch-speaking faculty to becoming a truly research-driven, international business school.

RSM’s focus on excellent research pays off in 2001 when Ale Smidts, Ad Pruyn and Cees van Riel’s paper entitled The impact of employee communication and perceived external prestige on organizational identification is published in the highly prestigious Academy of Management Journal. The School successfully achieves its teaching and research ambitions during this second growth phase, and is recognised as a top-tier institution when it is enters the top 10 European business schools in the 1999 Financial Times (FT) MBA rankings. It has become one that innovates, continually looks to the future, and offers students a first class international educational experience.

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