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There cannot be many business school deans who have held three nationalities, but George Yip, who was appointed dean of the Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University this year, is one of them.

The appointment of a professor who has held Dutch, British and US nationalities is fitting for a school which accepts students from all three countries, and many more.

This is not lost on Prof Yip. “I have spent the past 15 years telling my students they should be expatriots,” he says wryly.

After a decade in the UK – at Capgemini Consulting, London Business School and Cambridge University’s Judge Business School – Prof Yip, 60, had few qualms about moving to the Netherlands. “This was the right school at the right time,” he says. “I only wanted to be a dean at a top business school. This is the number one business school in an important country.”

Though the port of Rotterdam does not head everyone’s list of the most glamorous cities, Prof Yip believes both the city and the Netherlands generally merit closer inspection by students and recruiters alike. “There are 16m people in Holland but the multi-nationalism makes it feel like a country of 50m,” he argues.

Within a short distance of the school are well-known companies such as Unilever, Shell and Philips, and it is to develop links with companies such as these that Prof Yip was appointed. Though the business school is well-known in academic circles, Prof Yip believes it has been punching below its weight in its corporate relationships, both within the Netherlands and further afield.

He wants to see all that change during his four-year tenure as dean. The first thing he has done is to spell out the name of the school to Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University – it was formerly the somewhat anonymous RSM Erasmus. He also intends to increase the marketing activities of the school under the catchphrase: Critical Thought, Practical Action.

One of his biggest tasks will be to build a stronger MBA programme and he already has concrete plans for how to do this. First will be to lower the average age of students from 28 or 29 years to 25 to 28 years. “We need to improve the quality of the jobs they get,” he concludes.

He is also looking at the length and scheduling of the MBA. At the moment the programme is 15 months in length and runs from October to the end of January, which puts the programme out of sync with most of the top business schools and the recruiting schedules of employers.

Developing short executive programmes will also be a priority, in particular an open enrolment portfolio, to be launched towards the end of the year, concentrating on the school’s research strengths – operations, logistics and global account management. At the moment the lion’s share of the €5.5m ($8.5m) income from executive education is from corporate clients such as GoodYear Dunlop, Deutsche Telekom and Kone, the lift and escalator company.

The expansion of executive education will also enable the new dean to supplement academic salaries – currently determined by the Dutch government – by 20 and 30 per cent. Although this may not put them on an equal footing to compete for faculty with the likes of Harvard or Stanford, there are other routes to attracting and retaining good faculty. “We get very good Dutch researchers who want to stay here,” he says.

As part of making the school more accessible to the corporate world, Prof Yip is hoping to persuade Rotterdam faculty to publish more articles in management journals. The school already has a solid publication rate in the more esoteric peer-reviewed journals, ranking number three after London Business School and Insead in the Financial Times research rating, which is based on a list of 40 management and business journals.

But perhaps the biggest job of all for Prof Yip will be fund-raising. Set up in the 1970s, Rotterdam School of Management has relatively few older alumni, who often form the cornerstone of philanthropic giving at the more established US business schools.

“We have pretty much nothing,” he says. “Everything is for sale, including our name.” (He is asking for €50m). In the shorter term however Prof Yip wants gifts of €5m to €10m for research centres.

One of the growing trends among many of the top university-based business schools is forging alliances with other departments. Prof Yip says he is sceptical of this approach. Nonetheless there is one joint programme, developed with Leiden University, in which Prof Yip has a strong interest – the Masters’ degree in China Economy and Business. It will be launched in September and those that enrol on the programme will find that Prof Yip is one of their teachers.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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