The Network Dean

Bruno van Pottelsberghe is surely the Dean of all Networks. Of those networks that extend our horizons and opportunities, of those that establish the reputation of the SBS-EM at international level, of those too that generate new resources and create employment. As his term of office, which began six and a half years ago, comes to a close, he takes a look back at the past while keeping his eye firmly focused on the road ahead.

  • One of the names that has marked your time in office and the life of the teams working at the School is EQUIS – the European accreditation system.

Bruno van Pottelsberghe: Accreditations are fundamental to achieving international recognition by your peers and thus to forging alliances worldwide. They are a fundamental guarantee of quality. Schools in Asia and America will only agree to meetings or video conferences if you’re accredited! Also, accreditation makes you eligible for the rankings. And attracting talented students means both being accredited and achieving a good place in the rankings.

The International Network

  • After EQUIS, you set your sights on AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accreditation. Why?

B.v.P.: Last June, we completed the EQUIS Progress Report, which is designed to show that all the innovations of these recent years – to which I will return – are operational and sustainable. We have been reaccredited by EQUIS for a period of three years and we can be proud of that. This European accreditation is highly selective and is effectively a guarantee of good governance. The American AACSB accreditation is important for forging alliances on the continent of America. AACSB evaluators place the emphasis on AOL (Assurance of Learning), which is very interesting as it forces us to rationalize our programme reform processes and to evaluate skill acquisition across all our cycles and programmes, etc. In short, the AACSB obliges us to engage more deeply in qualitative thought and to redouble our efforts in pedagogical terms.

  • Was this international gateway the reason behind the creation of Shared Services?

BvP: It was one of the driving forces. The SBS-EM is founded on two pillars: on the one hand, subsidized education (Bachelor and Master’s degrees and doctoral programmes), and on the other, everything involved in Lifelong Learning (Continuous Education, Advanced Master’s degrees, Executive MBAs, Executive Master’s degrees and Company Specific Programs). Shared Services are the umbrella under which these two pillars operate, what we might call the Dean’s Offices, and they go further still because together they manage two other key dimensions: international and corporate relations. At international level, we have created five double diplomas (including two in Advanced Master’s degrees) which are running well. And in terms of international exchanges, almost all our students go abroad to first-rate destinations and more than 50% of these exchanges take place outside Europe.


The Corporate Network

  • Is it true to say that the development of the Corporate dimension is very closely associated with your Deanship?

BvP: At the start of my term of office, the SBS-EM had no structural links with the world of business. So we created two related departments: Corporate Al l iances and Career Services. The former aims to establish partnerships with companies, either through ‘Talent Partnerships’ – which involves creating activities designed to bring professionals together with a potential view to recruiting students – or through ‘Knowledge Alliances’ where the emphasis is on collaboration with our professors. It was against this background that the Credited Internship Program emerged; this offers students the opportunity to participate in 4-6 month full-time credited internships in business, in or outside of Belgium (for around 30% of them). In nearly 4 years, we have gone from five students to around a hundred students a year! This is a fantastic experience: it enables students to become professionalized even before the end of their Master’s and graduation, and to gain in maturity, which is an important point when it comes to successfully choosing their future job. I should also point out the driving role played by the student services we work with – Campus Recruitment in particular – in terms of the Job Market and many other initiatives. Together these activities, which generate income, have enabled us to recruit three full-time staff members.

  • QTEM is another important project that incorporates these two aspects – the international and the corporate dimensions.

BvP: The QTEM (Quantitative Techniques for Economics and Management; Master’s network brings business schools and companies together in partnership. Since it was created at the end of 2012, with the support of the Bernheim Foundation, we have grown from 5 members to 21 distinguished business schools and faculties of economics and management! Each institution can choose up to 20 students who will take part in two exchanges within the network and a short internship, or one exchange and a long internship; and it undertakes to find Corporate Partners who fund the organisation and welcome the trainees.

The philosophy that we want to infuse in the QTEM network is basically this: « Using analytical techniques to build a better world or a more sustainable world ». All the students must follow courses in analytics applied to all the disciplines: economics, finance, marketing, human resources, etc. They are made aware of analysis and data processing. QTEM embodies the latest development of the School’s positioning, but on a global level. The project is growing very well and has enabled us to recruit five members of staff. This year, The Graduation Ceremony will be held in November at the Faculty of Business and Economics at the University of Lausanne, with around fifty students graduating.

The Professional Network

  • A quick word about the International Advisory Board ?

B.v.P.: It deserves a great deal more than that (he laughs)! In a way it is the starting point for everything I have just been talking about. The nature of its composition means that it brings together the three key elements that have underpinned the development of the SBS-EM over the last six years: academic, international and corporate. The IAB has acted as a trigger and its President, Dominique Leroy, has played a key role, as have all its members. They include a Nobel laureate, American professors, captains of industry, etc. This gives the School a distinctive quality that has facilitated our development.

  • Hasn’t its influence also extended to the area of Executive Education (ExEd)?

B.v.P.: When I first arrived, the governance there was chaotic but, very fortunately, Olivier Witmeur, Deputy Dean Executive Education, did a fantastic job. Yes, here too, as with the IAB, we drove home some major changes in governance, in particular by overhauling the Board of Directors and establishing a highly professional new Board. Since then, turnover has continued to rise, doubling in less than 5 years, and a major step forward has taken place within ExEd: the creation of the Advanced Master’s degrees (, six unsubsidised one-year programmes, now taken by an average of 130 students. This activity has enabled us to take on four full-time staff. Another important feature is the Executive MBA, which was completely transformed following the AMBA reaccreditation and which is now co-directed by John Metselaar and myself. The growing number of students registering means we will enable to enter the FT rankings in 2019. I’d also like to mention the Company Specific Programs (in-company training) which have been given a new boost with the arrival of Benjamin Beeckmans.


The Deans’ Network

  • The role of Dean is a human adventure but a personal journey too… Is there any particular memory you would like to share with us?

B.v.P.: My first Deans’ Meeting (events organized by the EFMD and AACSB) at the University of Nottingham in January 2012. No representative of the School had ever participated in one of these meetings and I realised straight away that we had been missing the boat for several years because everyone there was already networked! But I didn’t know anyone there; I felt like Louis de Funes in the Turkish baths in the film ‘La Grande Vadrouille’. Today, however, I’m like a fish in water! I know practically everyone, thanks especially to the QTEM network and all those who are part of it, but also those I am trying to persuade (he says with a smile) and those who are part of other networks and who still haven’t discovered the disruptive nature of the QTEM (he laughs).


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