MBA: Going Dutch in an old castle near Amsterdam

Enrol at Nijenrode and you'll learn the `soft skills' of communication and leadership
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TWENTY MINUTES drive from Amsterdam lies the wooded campus of Nijenrode University, otherwise known as the Netherlands Business School. With its 13th century castle, and 140 acres of landscaped park, it provides a tranquil setting in which international MBA students can plan their projects and get to know one another.

The only private university in Holland, Nijenrode offers a number of MBA programmes and an array of executive programmes. The international MBA contains 55 students from 19 different countries. "It's a truly international MBA," says Hans Palm, the university's dean. "That makes it different from many of the international MBAs in America. At Nijenrode people come from all over the world."

Set up in 1946, after the Second World War, by big Dutch companies such as Shell, Philips and Unilever, the university helped Holland with the enormous task of rebuilding itself after the War.

The 13-month MBA has always been an essentially practical qualification - students are expected to have the necessary intellectual capacity, but are also required to show that they can do something with their knowledge. "They must demonstrate they can apply what they know," says Palm.

In addition, students are required to develop the ability to communicate, motivate and lead people. They have to work in small, multicultural project groups to foster team building. At the end of the MBA, they work with one or two others on a piece of sponsored research - a project/thesis - for a company, an exercise that sometimes leads to a job offer. Next year, Nijenrode is offering MBA students a financial management major as an option to replace the project/thesis.

The companies which were instrumental in helping to establish the school are still intimately involved with its running. Executives from business, governments and international organisations visit Nijenrode as guest speakers - something the students appreciate - and big firms like Anderson Consulting, Boston Consulting and Coca Cola hire the school's graduates. Throughout the year, companies send job openings to the university and they make recruiting presentations when an executive comes along to explain the issues confronting the company.

None of this comes cheap. Fees for the MBA are around pounds 16,000. On top of that, students have to find money for meals and accommodation. But facilities are good - modern student accommodation, a fitness centre, tennis courts, a sports hall and jogging course. (You have no excuse for becoming physically unfit.) And the library is open seven days a week, until 10pm.

All students live on campus, in close proximity with colleagues and staff. They have rooms to themselves and a lot of extracurricular activities.That makes for teamworking opportunities, and means time and money isn't wasted on travel.

One of the great pluses of attending Nijenrode is the alumni network afterwards. With almost 8,000 alumni worldwide, employed in all sorts of industries in many different countries, the network provides opportunities for career counselling, job searches, staff recruitment and sales.

Other Nijenrode MBAs include a brand new modular programme being run in conjunction with Kellogg Graduate School of Management, at Northwestern University in Chicago, and another brand new financial and insurance services MBA, which is being operated with other European business schools. In addition, there is the Rochester-Nijenrode executive MBA, a part-time qualification offered to people aged over 30.