Where it all began in 1970

First school building in Kralingen, Rotterdam

“The supervisory boards of the Netherlands School of Economics (NSE) and Delft were made up of prominent businessmen, with the head of Unilever being chairman of NSE and the managing director of Royal Dutch heading up Delft. One day, not long before our new school was about to open, it occurred to them that they ought to let the Ministry of Education know what we were planning. A hastily arranged meeting was set up with Arie Piekaar, director general of science policy at the ministry. After explaining our plans, Piekaar, probably thinking that this was a long way off, asked when the new school might actually happen. I thought then that everything was going to go badly wrong because the opening was set for the middle of the next week. Instead he said: ‘Gentlemen, we’ve been praying for something to happen since the end of the war – and it starts next Wednesday!’”
- Harrie Langman, the first dean of RSM

The genesis of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) can be traced back to the early 1960s when there was a call in the Netherlands for a business school that would prepare graduates for a career in management.

Schools of Economics already existed in the country, with business economics (bedrijfseconomie) being taught as a subject. However, industry in particular believed there was a need for a broader, more comprehensive, multidisciplinary post-experience business education that would benefit managers and future captains of industry. With MBA-style programmes flourishing in the USA, and with some dedicated higher education institutions offering similar across Europe, a debate started about the necessity for specialised management education.

The Dutch multinationals that contributed towards the establishment of the School

Through a series of events and decisions, and through the collective ambitions and aspirations of many people, the School evolves over the years into the internationally respected one we recognise today.

The first step is in 1964 when Royal Dutch (the Dutch part of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group) begins making plans for its 75th anniversary celebrations the following year. For the occasion, the company gifts 2.5 million guilders (€1.13 million) towards the formation of a graduate school of management. The donation creates the momentum needed for serious debate at a national level about the value and practicalities of such a school.

Inspired by the generous donation, other Dutch multinationals contribute, providing a substantial pot of 4.5 million guilders (€2.2 million). These forward-thinking benefactors are still household names today.

Koninklijke Hoogovens en Staalfabrieken (which became Corus, and more recently Tata Steel Europe).

Algemene Kunstzijde Unie and Koninklijke Zout/Ketjen (now AkzoNobel)

Logo of the Amsterdam-Rotterdam Bank (AMRO).

Logo of the Algemene Bank Nederland (ABN)

(now ABN AMRO)

The new educational institute, the Stichting Bedrijfskunde, goes on to provide a broad graduate business programme for managers from a diverse range of backgrounds, such as economics, social studies, law, technology, and engineering. It is not long before the institution conducts its own research, provides consultancy services and plants the seeds that will see it grow into an internationally respected business school. This, then, is the story of RSM – it is a story in four parts.

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