Enjoy Nyenrode’s anniversary celebrations by gaining a Masters scholarship, says Russ Thorne

Students thinking of studying for their MBA at Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands may have an extra incentive for applying this year. To celebrate the school’s 65th anniversary, alumni are donating 65 Masters scholarships, with a total value of €1.3m.

Available to those applying to the school’s Masters in management and full-time international MBA programmes, the scholarships will vary from a €10,000 contribution towards tuition fees to an amount covering the full costs of the course.

“We give out scholarships every year,” says rector magnificus Maurits van Rooijen, adding that the number usually varies between 20 and 30. “This time we wanted to increase the number, and it was logical to do it in line with our 65th anniversary.”

The additional scholarships are possible thanks to help from the school’s alumni. “Our alumni want to make sure that future generations have the same opportunities they had,” says Van Rooijen.

Nyenrode offers an “intensive, privileged” education, he says, and “one of the risks of this kind of education is that you only draw from the pool of people who can afford it. “But we want to choose only the people who have the right qualities. We recognise people’s potential.”

In fact, Van Rooijen estimates that 95 per cent of the university’s tuition fees are not paid for by individual students, but are covered by contributions from companies or scholarships. Nonetheless, it’s an exclusive school and a demanding learning environment, so it’s important students are well supported, he says.

“The intention is for every student with a scholarship to be assigned an alumnus who will act as coach and mentor, and we intend to create a system of revolving scholarships with the aim of bringing together a group of students who will challenge and motivate themselves and each other.”

The connections between students are assured by Nyenrode’s approach to teaching, says Van Rooijen. This approach is based on the principle of “head, hand and heart”. The “head” aspect covers conventional, albeit intensive, studies. The “hand” aspect is concerned with the practical application of the knowledge gained, which ensures that students build their understanding on a sound experiential base.

“And then the heart is about trying to develop students, and helping them to find what their real passions are,” Van Rooijen continues. “It’s about personal development.”

Nyenrode’s campus set-up encourages students to interact and organise their own activities, while also preparing them for corporate life. “It’s not a nine-to-five experience,” says Van Rooijen. “Students may have to work for 24 hours if the course demands it. There’s definitely a transition between a more comfortable academic life and the challenging real world of business, and the course is there to help them manage that transition.”

Once students graduate, the connections and networks built at Nyenrode remain with them for life, according to Van Rooijen – hence the success of the alumni sponsorship programme. Students often return for further study at different stages of their careers to pick up skills not covered at Masters level. For example, they may want to prepare themselves for sitting on a board, or they may want to look at something more esoteric.

“We offer specialised programmes, such as business and spirituality, which is for people who want to go a little bit deeper and understand that business is not just about shares and making money; who want to look at what their business is really about,” he says.

Students initially apply for one of the Nyenrode 65 scholarships online, but after that the school will fly promising candidates out to the campus “so we can get to know them better and they can get to know us,” says van Rooijen. They also want to observe how students get along with others, “because we all know that success in your career, whatever your area, isn’t just about being the brightest. It’s also a question of attitude and understanding that your success depends on other people.”

The importance of appreciating the human side of business feeds into the principle of stewardship, which forms part of the “Nyenrode trinity” of values, says Van Rooijen – the others being leadership and entrepreneurship. This, too, emphasises the supporting role that alumni play.

“Stewardship isn’t just a big word,” Van Rooijen says, “it’s a genuine feeling of responsibility for the next generation of students.”

Van Rooijen believes that this ongoing relationship with alumni, coupled with Nyenrode Business University’s intensive study ethic and emphasis on softer people skills, helps prepare students to be successful.

“Our graduates are as equipped as they can be,” he says, “and the scholarships will give promising students a chance to study at Nyenrode that they would not normally have.”