Is Solvay Brussels School “corporate” enough?

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Over my years as Dean, Alumni members regularly complained to me that the School was “no longer connected with business”, or much less so than before … which might go some way to explaining the supposed decline of the Faculty. I believe these Alumni were nostalgic for the good old days when Belgian leaders gave a lively display of their leadership skills and shared their wisdom with students who, in turn, enjoyed inspiring learning experiences. My reaction to this ‘belief’ is that while this may be true in some respects, it is most certainly wrong in others.

TRUE, we have fewer ‘famous’ industry leaders fully responsible for courses. This is due to the falling number of Belgian corporate leaders – they have their own Alma Mater. It is also a result of the evolution of quality control in universities, with very detailed course outlines, codified learning objectives, new pedagogical practices and the adoption of “assurance of learning” practices. Delivering a course nowadays is more intensive than in the past. As industry captains are busier than ever, the number of opportunities to recruit them are consequently smaller.

WRONG, however – in fact the opposite is true – as we are actually more ‘corporate’ than ever. Firstly, we have maintained a substantial reliance on external experts and leaders, more so in fact than in the past. Secondly, we have built a new structured approach to strengthen synergies with private and public institutions.

Let us start with the ‘exposure’ of our student to external expertise and skills. There are nearly 90 external professors – primarily from industry but also from public institutions – who deliver full courses in our state-funded degrees. This is more than the 69 full-time professors or the 46 professors from other faculties and universities. These numbers underline our strong reliance on external expertise, and the firm multidisciplinary nature of our programmes. Two interviews in the present issue of this magazine illustrate how newly recruited external professors impact on our students: a ‘serial’ CEO of major companies (Stefan Descheemaeker) and the founder of a start-up in big data analytics (Pierre Deville). In addition to this, our full-time professors frequently invite many guest speakers who enrich our class experience, such as Dominique Leroy (Proximus), Nicolas Boel (Solvay SA), Carlos Brito (AB InBev), Denis Knoop (Delhaize), and Jean Van Wetter (Handicap International).

Then is the new structured approach, centered on the corporate alliance office, the career services, and company-specific programs. Talent partnerships and knowledge alliances work together and the Campus Recruitment student team help the School to build long term partnerships with industry (an online database dedicated to job access includes 800 companies, and some 100 students each year undertake a 4 to 6 month full-time credited internship). The Business Voice Series conferences (BVS) are an opportunity for our Alumni and current students to network. Finally, company specific services are growing fast under the leadership of Benjamin Beeckmans (cf. his interview in this issue).

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