Interview with Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)






This interview was conducted in March 2002 with Ms. Connie Tai , Director of Admissions of the Rotterdam School of Management (RSM).

Yuko Kanesaki (Interface):

Please comment on RSM initiatives in the globalization of your MBA Program.

Connie Tai:

Recently, business schools have sought to extend their global reach through a variety of technological and strategic initiatives. The Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) is involved in a series of strategic alliances, which further broaden our global reach. OneMBA is an alliance spanning the globe with partner schools in North America, Asia, South America and Europe. This consortium involves the University of North Carolina, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Fundacao Getulio Vargas in Brazil, EGADE-ITESM in Mexico and the RSM.

Additionally, we have formed a series of project-based alliances for executive education because we feel that developing customer-centric programs is critical and that requires the commitment of schools that add real value to the clients.

At the RSM, we believe that it is critical to maintain personal contact with our participants. Thus, our initiatives in technology have been developed on a sandwich model, where courses begin with a residential module and are then supported by learning technologies. We do not believe that live interaction can be replaced altogether.

Yuko Kanesaki:

I understand that RSM has introduced an accelerated MBA program. Please describe this change.

Connie Tai:

Beginning with the 2002 MBA intake, we have reduced the duration of Rotterdam’s MBA program from 18 months to 15 months. Through a series of workshops and focus groups among students and alumni, we discovered that by using technology more efficiently, by redesigning some modules so that they are delivered throughout the program rather than in one block, and by reducing some vacation time, we have been able to retain all of the content elements of the program, yet offer a shorter and tighter program.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Do you plan to increase the size of your MBA class in the foreseeable future, keep it about the same, or decrease it?

Connie Tai:

The RSM has grown slowly but steadily in the past years. Quality is the most important factor for us. We thus ensure that we can deliver our program effectively as we grow. At present, we have an annual intake of 160 students. Within 3 years, we would like to increase our intake to 200.

Yuko Kanesaki:

What post-MBA ongoing educational programs are available to alumni of your program to keep their MBA knowledge and skills up-to-date?

Connie Tai:

We deliver a regular series of social and networking events to our alumni. There are also subject specific courses and workshops addressing themes ranging from telecommunications to health care entrepreneurship. Additionally, the RSM is a partner in a European consortium, which delivers a weeklong refresher module – MBA Plus – that is open to participants who are alumni of AMBA, the Association of MBA schools.

Yuko Kanesaki:

What regular activities does your alumni organization in Japan sponsor?

Connie Tai:

Our alumni in Japan are mostly located in Tokyo. They host a series of network events throughout the year. Additionally, they meet with representatives of the RSM during staff and faculty visits to Japan.

Yuko Kanesaki:

In which ways are faculty accessible to students in your program?

Connie Tai:

Discussions that begin in class often continue long after. In a technology age, much of the interaction with faculty takes place over e-mail or on discussion groups. Personal discussions also take place in some of the lounges and restaurants on campus, and in faculty offices. Equally important is peer interaction which is also very much focused on the open areas within the RSM building.

Yuko Kanesaki:

How do faculty coordinate teachings to avoid a “crunch” in the study work load?

Connie Tai:

The workload throughout the MBA is distributed across the program so that students can reasonably accomplish everything. That said, it is up to the student to ensure that they use their time wisely, function well in groups, and work efficiently. At RSM, we emulate the workplace, and therefore given the students tremendous amounts of data from which they must scan and select the important elements.

Yuko Kanesaki:

How do you ensure quality control in teaching?

Connie Tai:

All courses are evaluated through an end of course evaluation by the students, another through faculty, and finally, through an on-going quality improvement process.

Yuko Kanesaki:

How do you promote teamwork in your MBA Program?

Connie Tai:

MBA students are assigned into a series of teams so that their group differs from course to course. This makes it possible to have worked with a large number of culturally diverse, and functionally expansive colleagues. MBAs begin with group work, and then have a series of workshops that help them develop their skills throughout the program. This development system means that MBAs “learn on the job” in their MBA and can apply these skills for the rest of their careers. Team selection is managed through the MBA department which does selection to ensure diversity and a fair skills balance.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Are students free to nominate a particular field project by industry or subject?

Connie Tai:

Students are free to select and search for their own projects/internships in the MBA program. The Career Management Center facilitates and supports this process. Internships have taken place throughout the world and in a variety of industries and have included projects in venture capital in Europe, technology development in Asia, and even marketing project for the US National Football League! The internship is considered an important vehicle for those students looking for a career change after the MBA.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Do you have a “bid system” for course registration? How does it work?

Connie Tai:

In the elective phase, students choose courses on the basis of a bidding system that attempts to give each student as many of their top choices as possible. The RSM offers a very broad selection of electives. Since we schedule elective volume on the basis of 30 participants per elective, but actually have more slots available, we can meet student interests very successfully.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Please describe any financial assistance (scholarships, loans) available to qualified international students (both merit and need) offered by your MBA program?

Connie Tai:

A wide variety of scholarships, loan schemes and financial aid programs are available at the RSM. The Admissions Office informs applicants about the many scholarship opportunities. In addition to general programs, there are also many different specific schemes that apply to applicants from different countries or sectors. All that information can be found on www.rsm.nl

Yuko Kanesaki:

Please comment on the safety record on-campus and off-campus for students in your MBA program.

Connie Tai:

The Netherlands is a very welcoming environment for international students. Everyone in the country speaks excellent English, and is helpful to foreigners. At the RSM, 95% of our students are international, and this is one of the true strengths of the school. The Netherlands is a very safe environment. The school is located in a beautiful, traditional part of Rotterdam, which is very safe. The contacts between Japan and the Netherlands started more than 400 years ago. Japanese students feel very at home in Rotterdam.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Please describe teaching approaches in entrepreneurship in your MBA program, including business plan competitions and awards.

RSM students participate in various business plan competitions on an annual basis. The most recent one being the New Venture 2002 Business Plan Competition organized by McKinsey. Competing with over 260 entries from around the world in the first round focusing on Concept and Presentation of a Business Idea, RSM students took home three of ten prizes. The second and third round of the competition continue throughout 2002.

Yuko Kanesaki:

What percentage of your classes in devoted to case studies, and of the cases used, what’s the percentage of those with international content?

Connie Tai:

The RSM uses cases for about 50% of our courses. We feel that at the beginning of the MBA certain closed learning elements are best taught in a lecture style. Towards the end of the program, we encourage a very open, exploratory philosophy. In the middle of the program, where we focus on functional areas of business and the integration across functions, we use the case method extensively.

Yuko Kanesaki:

How do you add lasting value to your MBA, so that its utility remains high with trends in business?

Connie Tai:

An MBA is a developmental program that provides a series of benefits. Firstly, MBAs learn a tremendous amount about various aspect of business. This content experience also builds self-confidence. Additionally, the international, group based environment allows students to build their management abilities in an open, supportive environment in which they can experiment. Beyond their skills and personal development, they also build their ability for continuous learning, and problem solving. Finally, the network that they acquire in their MBA will bring them benefits throughout their careers.

Yuko Kanesaki:

What changes are your students requesting in your MBA Program?

Connie Tai:

At present, there are no specific changes being called for from a content perspective! Nevertheless, we will continue to develop our curriculum around three areas: technology and innovation management, finance, and strategy and people management. We believe that these are the most critical areas for a company’s success.

From the side of the school, we are also investing in web-based support for an increasing number of our activities. At present, we are discussing projects involving www based gaming simulations, www based career advising support and goal setting support which would also be available for alumni, and more virtual collaboration tools. The network was recently upgraded to a Windows 2000 platform. We seek continuously to provide up-to-date, accessible and sensible technology for our participants.

Yuko Kanesaki:

How would you characterize your special strengths, and in which areas can you improve?

Connie Tai:

The RSM is fortunate to have one of the most international business school environments anywhere in the world. We have a cooperative, innovative culture which lets MBAs learn about themselves and about the perspectives of their colleagues from around the world. One of our challenges from this global orientation is size. As we attract students from many countries, it is important that we build our reputation in many countries simultaneously. This is a challenge that we accept and we are reaching with time, but it is nevertheless a challenge.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Recently have you seen marked changes in the number of Asian students applying to your program? From which countries?

Connie Tai:

RSM has a solid reputation in the Asian markets. At present, between 20% and 25% of our intake comes from Asia. Countries from which we receive 5 or more students annually include Japan, China, Taiwan, Indonesia and Korea. We are growing in strength in South East Asia with students from Thailand and Vietnam.

Yuko Kanesaki:

How many Japanese are currently enrolled full-time in your MBA program?

Connie Tai:

Each year, we have between 5 to 8 Japanese students. The trend is steady although we have seen a marked increase in inquiries and applications from Japan in recent years. Among them, a growing proportion of self-sponsored students.

Yuko Kanesaki:

What is the current percentage of international students in your MBA program?

Connie Tai:

Since the mid 1990’s, RSM has had over 90% international students in our intakes. On average, 20% of the students have been from the Americas, 25% from Asia and 45% from Europe. We do not work with regional quotas although we work hard to ensure a wide range of backgrounds and experience and will maintain a balance around these proportions.

Yuko Kanesaki:

What is the current breakdown of company-sponsored versus self-sponsored students in your MBA program? Do you give preference to company sponsored students?

Connie Tai:

Approximately 10% of students on the full time MBA are company sponsored. Candidates are evaluated equally on the basis of their potential as well as achievement irrespective of how their studies will be funded.

Yuko Kanesaki:

What is the percentage of women students in your MBA Program?

Connie Tai:

Approximately 25% of students are women in the current class.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Describe the candidate you seek at RSM.

Connie Tai:

An ideal applicant to the RSM is a candidate who will truly benefit from and contribute to the program. We look for individuals who are interested in international business and are curious about other countries and other management styles. We look for outgoing individuals who will also contribute to the learning of others and give their own perspective.

It is important for all of our participants to have a solid degree, good work experience and a high level of comfort in reading and speaking in English.

It is also important that they will contribute to the overall culture of the school. We believe that students from different backgrounds cannot take over each other’s culture – a Japanese student will not acquire the characteristics of an American student – but they must find a happy medium where each contributes what they can to an open and cooperative environment.

Successful Japanese applicants want to contribute from their own culture and are proud about their backgrounds and experience. They are willing to share this with their classmates and tell them about their own experience, or about their experience of managing in Japan. This does mean that they may develop a more outgoing approach to education than they may have experienced in the past, and should indicate this in their applications.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Please elaborate on admissions criteria and features of the application process.

Connie Tai:

From many years of experience, we have developed an insight into the structure of a variety of educational systems in different countries. From applicant pool is made up of candidates coming from more than 80 countries where each country has their unique education system and grading standards.

We look at the combination of previous educational achievement, GMAT, TOEFL, work experience and recommendations for candidates. There is no minimum GPA or GMAT. Our average GMAT is about 620 and the range is from 550 to 780. It is important to show a good quantitative result, as this is a good indication of the MBAs ability to be successful in quantitative courses. For the TOEFL, we look to a clear indication of English language competency which we double check through personal interviews so that we can also judge comprehension and verbal skills ourselves. On average, our participants have 5.5 years of work experience while a minimum of 2 years is required to be considered for admission.

Online application is available via Embark. More than 60% of our applicants apply online. However, online applications are treated equally as paper-based applications.

All admissions interviews are conducted in English to ensure that candidates can communicate in fluent English when they are in class as well as during group work. Most candidates are interviewed by our alumni locally. On campus interviews are not required. We do not have a round system as we use rolling admissions process. But normally 2 months before the application deadline of June 15, the program is already very much filled. So candidates are strongly encouraged to apply early.

Yuko Kanesaki:

Please comment on career placement service.

Connie Tai:

At the RSM we combine services for life long career development and job search with services aimed at the immediate project and job search for MBA students. In an average year, over 100 companies will be on campus although in recent years electronic recruitment has increased tremendously and has allowed a much more geographically wide recruitment range with companies contacting us from Asia, and Latin America to recruit students directly, rather than through European subsidiaries.

In 2001, 96% of our students are placed at 3 months after graduation. For 2002, we expect that finding jobs will take longer because of the recession. This will mean that MBAs will have to broaden their job searches beyond on campus recruitment to a larger variety of companies, and to specific jobs rather than graduate recruitment schemes.

When we recently reviewed the ROI on the MBA, students nearly tripled their pre MBA salaries 3 years after their MBA. These results should be taken cautiously, however, as it is impossible to judge career satisfaction and success purely in financial terms. In Rotterdam, we want MBAs to be able to find jobs throughout their careers and to find jobs that they like and are happy with.

According to our placement report, in 2001, four out of five graduates secured work in Western Europe and the majority (56%) took work outside their home country. These figures underline the high value placed by today’s leading companies on the international perspective and cultural understanding nurtured at the RSM through our international programs.

In Rotterdam, we are confident that the overall economic outlook for highly educated, excellent MBAs from top schools will remain the best way to gain top management positions and to develop one’s career.