Photographer:Fotograaf: Simone Golob
MAASTRICHT. Another attempt is being made to integrate the Maastricht School of Management (MSM) into Maastricht University. For the sixth time since the turn of the century. The last fiasco dates from three years ago. It was MSM that pulled out of the deal at the last minute. And that when they had never been so close to an agreement, said Philip Vergauwen, former dean of the School of Business and Economics, at that time.
Present negotiations are at an initial stage, emphasise the parties involved. Nick Bos, Vice President of the Executive Board, speaks of “positive intentions” and “an investigative talk”.
The news is surprising, because there have been so many previous attempts to merge, among others with the UM's School of Business and Economics (SBE) and later on with the School of Governance. The last phase of negotiations lasted a full two years. What went wrong in 2015? There were no conflicts or arguments, said Luc Soete, former rector of the UM, back then. Philip Vergauwen, at the negotiating table as dean of SBE was disappointed. He was astonished when Wim Naudé, dean of MSM at the time, delivered the final ‘no’. According to Vergauwen the problem didn't lie with the UM. At the same time, he doesn't want to push all the blame onto MSM. That much was clear in his farewell interview a year ago. “They just made different choices.”
The dossier is complex, the history is emotionally charged, and for a long time there was distrust among various leaders. MSM also feared that it would become ‘incorporated’ and not taken ‘seriously’.
Within the walls of the university, some have referred to the role that Naudé played as being the one who pulled out of the deal at the last minute. Sources now claim that Naudé, who resigned in July as dean and is on a research sabbatical this academic year, was put on the sidelines by MSM’s supervisory board, after which the door to the UM could be reopened. At the moment, an interim board is in charge at MSM.
Léon Frissen, chairman of MSM's supervisory board, does not want to comment on the matter. There is no point in looking back, he says. “We have every intention of working on models of co-operation. That will take time.”
MSM (approximately 60 FTEs) offers a Master's of Business Administration, a Master's of Science, together with RWTH Aachen, and a Master's in Management, among other things. They also provide courses in countries such as Azerbaijan, Egypt, Yemen and Romania. These are areas in which the UM is less active, but where they might takes steps in the case of an integration.
Maastricht University has few answers to the question why they have resumed the talks and where this may lead: MSM as an autonomous unit under the UM's Executive Board or part of a faculty? “It is still in an orientation phase,” says project manager Fred Offerein, who is one of those responsible for the process on behalf of the university.
What complicates the matter is the fact that other sections within the UM are adrift too. The University Colleges and the School of Governance, for example, will need a new ‘place’ now that a science faculty has emerged from the ‘former’ Faculty of Humanities and Sciences (FHS). The potential future place of MSM cannot be seen separate from that.