“We're considering a merger on 1 September 2021”

MSM together with the UM: seventh attempt

08-04-2021

MAASTRICHT. Again, there are talks of integrating the Maastricht School of Management (MSM) into Maastricht University, and this time chances of success seem greater than ever. It was dean Peter Møllgaard who recently said in a faculty meeting of the School of Business and Economics that a merger was underway. MSM would move in with SBE at Tapijn. The Executive Board is not revealing anything for the time being.

Maastricht University and the Maastricht School of Management tried to work together at least six times before. Each time, it didn’t work out, and each time relations worsened. On one occasion, they almost got there. In 2013, the news was made public in a press release: “Maastricht University (UM) and the Maastricht School of Management (MSM) intend to join forces.” But then, just like in 2015, the project never reached completion.

In 2018, talks were resumed. Nick Bos, vice president of the Executive Board spoke (more cautiously) at the time of “positive intentions” and “explorative discussion about closer cooperation”. This time, Bos also states that he feels it is too soon to anticipate the outcome: “We have made a lot of progress, but are still in the midst of discussions.” Talks continue about various parts and details.
SBE dean Peter Møllgaard and director Pien Versteegh sounded a lot firmer in their statements during the faculty council meeting mid-March. Møllgaard: “We're getting closer and closer. It's getting more and more concrete. We're considering a merger on 1 September 2021.”  Versteegh spoke of them being at “the final stage”. “There is already a solution for all major problems.”

Judging by the many attempts, the UM must have good reason to want to work with MSM. Why? The business school (60 FTEs) not only provides academic and post-academic education, such as a full-time and a part-time Master’s in Business Administration, but is especially strong in tailor-made training and consultancy projects in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. They train managers and professionals in developing countries and emerging economies. These are areas where the UM is not (very) active. Besides, the MSM could be a great addition to UMIO, SBE’s commercial branch that organises management education and courses for professionals.

The other way around, the UM can offer growth opportunities that MSM doesn’t have at the moment, says Léon Frissen, chairman of MSM’s supervisory board. “We are small, that is our weakness. We have too few FTEs to make headway.” Moreover, the Triple Crown accreditation that SBE has, is very interesting; three prestigious international accreditations mean that the Maastricht faculty is considered one of the best business schools in the world. For a long time, by the way, it was assumed that those accreditations would ‘be in danger’ if MSM – a partner that was not accredited by some of these institutions– were to be linked to SBE. But that doesn’t appear to be a problem anymore.

According to Frissen, “the integration of MSM and the UM is in full swing, hopefully we can sign in the summer.” So, is it going to be a merger, as Møllgaard said? Or a takeover? Is MSM going to be absorbed? MSM never wanted the latter. They wanted to be seen as a serious party and preferably remain as an autonomous unit with its own IT, personnel policies and funding. “The UM is taking over MSM,” says Frissen. “Absorbing it, no”. He means that this would be too negative. “MSM has a specific expertise and that can be an advantage for the UM.” MSM will not continue to be a foundation, as is the case now, but will be “an educational entity” within SBE. “Employees will be employed by the university.”
SBE, by the way, is home to more ‘entities’, institutes that were previously housed elsewhere within the UM, such as the Maastricht Sustainability Institute (MSI), the School of Governance, and UNU-Merit.

The MSM building in Randwyck and the accompanying hotel accommodation for foreign course members will also be “transferred”, says Frissen. “The money and the bricks will go to the UM.” The university may use the building that is situated on the corner of Endepolsdomein for other purposes, Frissen suggests.

Frissen has complete faith and “good hope”, and is fully aware of the complexity of the dossier. “I have been a member of MSM’s Supervisory Board for years, but only recently became its chairman; I think it is a pity how things went.” He doesn’t want to say too much about it, but does speak of “incompatible moods between the UM and Naudé.” Wim Naudé is the former dean of MSM and according to sources he was viewed as (one of the) obstructionists in previous attempts. Naudé stopped as dean in 2018 and went on a research sabbatical. In the meantime, he has completely left and is now working as a professor at Cork University Business School in Ireland.

“We're considering a merger on 1 September 2021”