A Belgian-South African pact

4 campuses, 4 stories - Partnership with Stellenbosch

Partnerships with schools abroad not only boost our international reputation, but also offer a different context in which to apply business theories, models and teaching methods. Our partnership with the University of Stellenbosch Business School provides just that – with very fruitful results.

Frik LandmanOur collaboration with the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) covers research, transfer of knowledge, and management programmes. It also includes reciprocal seats on the schools’ advisory boards. Frik Landman, CEO of USB Executive Development and member of the Vlerick Advisory Board, is enthusiastic about the partnership and sees particular potential in combining research efforts. “Joint research is probably the most relevant area in which we can work together,” he explains. “Vlerick is based in a developed economy in a mature market, whereas we’re based in a developing economy with different challenges and different methods. Although the principles of, say, leadership are the same, we have to apply and use them in a totally different context here. It’s interesting to find out what role the economic environment and infrastructure plays in directing a leader’s energy along a particular path. The conclusions of such a study can lead to the development of a new theory.”

Two-way relationship

The partnership is still in its infancy, but a number of faculty members have already given a series of guest lectures and potential research topics are being explored. “Strong relationships have to be built up step by step,” says Frik. “We can see that the relationship with Vlerick is based on excellent intentions and the aim is to fix on one or two concrete actions each year, such as undertaking a research topic or writing a joint publication. By doing this, we can broaden the base of people involved in the partnership, and then develop activities further.”

Exchanging knowledge and skills

The exchange of faculty and students and collaboration on research projects may all seem obvious ingredients of the partnership, but each brings its own challenges. Funding and the acute economic differences between a developed and a developing economy are just one example, but time is also a limiting factor, particularly when it comes to student exchanges. Frik: “Our executive development students have work obligations that don’t necessarily allow them to visit Europe, or vice versa. What’s more, a short exchange of just one or two weeks would have to be very well designed – we’d need to make every minute count. The exchange of faculty in the form of guest lecturers is more feasible and enables students to experience and gain insight into the other country’s economic culture.”

Spreading the word

Frik also sees potential in joint publications. “I don’t mean in top research journals, but in more popular business magazines. Vlerick regularly publishes the results of its research, corporate developments and opinions in its own media, but it also appeals to a broader business audience.” Publishing in partnership could add an interesting twist.

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