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Vlerick Leuven Gent management school in Belgium has been given €50m (£34.2m) in what is believed to be the largest single donation to a European business school.

The donation is the bequest of Baroness Cécile Sap-Vlerick – widow of Baron André Vlerick, the banker and scientist who founded the school. The couple had various business interests in Belgium.

The bequest stipulates that the money is invested in Belgian businesses,
from small start-ups to established organisations. Profits from the investments are to be split, with half ploughed back into investment in Belgian enterprises and half used by the school.

Peter Rafferty, director of international business development, expects the school to receive an annual dividend from the investment of about €2.5m – roughly 10 per cent of the school’s annual turnover. This year the school had a turnover of €20m.

The money will allow the school to launch projects at both its Gent and Leuven campuses. Gent has already been refurbished, while the Leuven site’s facelift is due to be completed by the end of the year.

Next spring the school plans to launch a modular MBA with overseas partners, although it is still not naming them publicly. The school’s full-time MBA programme will remain at its current size; however,
Mr Rafferty says Vlerick will expand its Master’s programme and rapid growth is also planned in the executive education arena, which already accounts for 60 per cent of the school’s business.

There are also plans to swell the ranks of the 70-strong faculty.

Mr Rafferty says the gift will give the school confidence in its international expansion plans. “We already have the academic credentials, the ability and the ambition, now [with this donation] we also have the resources to be at the top.”

However, Roland Van Dierdonck, the dean, who has largely orchestrated Vlerick’s growing international profile over the past eight years, will have no input into the school’s new resources: he is stepping down in September.

After a year’s sabbatical he will return to the school as a member of faculty. The new dean will be announced over the summer.


Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

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