Next September the School will launch its revamped degree that has undergone an ambitious reform. This new programme is our response to a fast moving master landscape in Europe and the continuously high expectations of our students, Alumni and the market, both nationally and internationally. The two programme Directors, Marco Becht and Jean‑Paul Loozen, had to show a great deal of creativity! They talk to us here with passion, commitment and a touch of pride.
- Dean Bruno van Pottelsberghe suggested that reworking this Master’s degree was like solving “an equation with several unknowns”…
Jean-Paul Loozen: There were a lot of different aspects that we had to take into account; one of these was closely linked to the School’s history. There was a time when Solvay simply provided Management Engineering education. And then there was the Economic Sciences section, which was part of the Faculty of Social Sciences, Politics and Economics and Solvay Business School. In 2008, the School merged with Economic Sciences to create a separate Faculty in its own right: the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management (SBSEM). This fusion required programmes to be adapted. In Economic Sciences there were two possible degree paths: Enterprise, with options already strongly focused on Management; or Analysis.
Marco Becht: I was originally affiliated with the latter. Analysis offered a classic route for those who wanted to make their career in economics, with mathematical models, quantitative analysis, etc. Enterprise, on the other hand, was somewhat more of a compromise between Economics and Management – its parameters were less well defined. Following the merger, the Enterprise route was split into the ‘Master in Business Economics’ and the ‘Master in Management’. Analysis became the ‘Master in Economic analysis and European Policy’, while Management Engineering remained as it was.
A Belgian concept
J.P.L.: Then came the Bologna Process which, in 2010, led to the creation of the European Higher Education Area; this had various consequences for the SBS-EM, whose Management Engineering degree was largely unfamiliar abroad … So the market perception of our graduates in this field would change: “having done Solvay” no longer meant following a five-year degree course in Management Engineering at Solvay, but could involve having done a bachelor’s degree of the same type elsewhere, with statistics, physics or chemistry, and then embarking on Management Engineering with our Master’s degree… This situation has raised some issues that will be addressed in a reform of the Management Engineering master this year, but that is for a future edition. The challenge for the Master in Management Science we are talking about today was even more acute because, given its history, it had a profile that was less well defined.
M.B.: Up to that time, nobody had put the Master in Management into a comparative perspective. We asked: What should the School’s Master in Management Science look like if it wants to compete successfully with the same type of degree offered by other leading institutions? How should it compare to other masters in management included in the Financial Times rankings? What programme should we create to match the reputation of our own existing Master Degrees and outshine the programmes of other top institutions in Europe? In short, our challenge was to create an ambitious programme that could aspire to be hightly ranked in a few years’ time.
- Here at home too, you had to use a lot of imagination to create a new Master’s degree that would maintain the School’s tradition of excellence?
M.B.: Indeed. That was another aspect (he admits good humouredly) of the work we began back in June 2016 and which will come together with the start of the academic year in September. This other aspect concerns the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and the Marcourt (or Paysage) decree which places a lot of constraints on subsidised universities, based on a rationale of unrestricted access to higher education and programmes of unlimited length that should ultimately result in a diploma. This vision is at odds with the goals of the SBS-EM, with our tradition of excellence, our “brand” in a sense. There is a culture clash here. With the new Master in Management, we have tried to create a programme that is very demanding and provides students with a real opportunity to show the market that they are exceptional and well trained. We want to attract students to our Master in Management Science who want to stand out and who will look back and say with pride “I did Solvay”.
Playing in the first division
- How does the Marcourt decree conflict with the values of the SBS-EM?
J.P.L.: We have had to produce a programme that would be consistent with our determination to be first division players at an international level and also comply with the rules imposed on us by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. That meant dealing with judicial, legal and financial constraints. Since the Marcourt/Paysage decree, students no longer need to average 12 points to pass, just 10… Then, to go up to the next year, students no longer have to pass all their exams. They are able to fail three and then have these hanging around their necks until they’ve passed them, even when they go on from their bachelor degree to their master’s. There is no longer any time limit. This leads to a lowering of standards and requirement levels. And it gets even more complex because the Paysage decree doesn’t put Flemish students and EU students on an equal footing with students from the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.
M.B.: This creates a lot of confusion for employers. It also creates a problem for the type of aspiring student we want to attract. If these students want to get the best out of our programme by working hard, we must give them the opportunity to shine. They should be highly sought after by potential employers after completion of the degree. Also, we want to attract students from abroad as well as hold on to our own. Belgium is a small country that should seek to attract talent, for example entrepreneurial individuals who will create employment in the future, for the benefit of all. Our Master in Management can make a positive contribution here as well. We know that many of those not born in Brussels decide to stay once they have been here for a while (smiles).
An ambitious new programme
- The time has come for you to unveil the overall shape of the new Master in Management Science.
M.B.: We focused on two particular aspects: the two-block structure and the course offering. The principle for structure is simple: Block 1 is the first year block where the focus is on all the compulsory courses that students have to pass in order to have access to the international exchange programme and credited internships in the following year. These internships are optional and reserved for students who have passed the twelve basic courses (ed. note: see boxed text). Students who do not pass will remain in Brussels, as the Marcourt decree envisions, to resit these first year courses, while getting started on second year courses as well. This provision ensures that students have an incentive to work hard to pass all Block 1 exams in the first year, as one would expect from master students. Going abroad to study is a privilege and the School is only able to maintain its partnerships with leading schools from many countries if the students we send abroad today preserve the School’s reputation, for the benefit of the students of tomorrow: we want the students who go abroad to be ambassadors for the School. All students who qualify for the exchange programme and for the credited internships will, in addition to their degree, receive an extra certificate. So the market will be able to tell that, as well as having a Master’s degree in Management Science – which is already a very positive thing – they have also qualified for one or more additional options.
- What do we need to know about changes to the course offerings?
M.B.: The change in the course offering has specific learning outcome objectives. The new Master in Management Science puts more emphasis on the word “science” through the addition of quantitative courses such as Managerial Economics, Econometrics for Managers, Data Management and Data Analytics. It also makes the Master in Management students elegible for our super-selective Quantitative Techniques for Economics and Management programme (QTEM). The Research Methods in Management course will prepare students for writing their thesis immediately after Block 1. So they will be able to get on with this straight away if they want to jump into the international exchange in the second quadrimester of Block 2. And we have added new courses that provide additional valuable skills and knowledge, like Law for Managers (giving a unique advantage) and Business Communication, to build on their aptitude in this crucial sector, as well as placing even more emphasis on languages. To sum up, this range of compulsory courses in itself will provide excellent training. To do all this in one year will be hard, but those who succeed will have learnt a lot, they will wear their graduation day gown with joy and throw their hats even higher.