Minister wants to discuss Maastricht School of Management spending with the UM

Minister wants to discuss Maastricht School of Management spending with the UM

Integration UM and MSM

26-01-2022

MAASTRICHT. The Maastricht School of Management (MSM) is being scrutinised after a critical article in NRC newspaper, at the very moment when Maastricht University is about to take over the business school. The image that emerges is of mismanagement, conflicts of interest and nepotism. Questions are raised about spending “hundreds of thousands of euros” to keep its own hotel afloat in Randwyck, where foreign MSM students can stay. Because was that money not meant for research and education? The Ministry of Education has asked for clarification.

It was former governor of Limburg Léon Frissen, chairman of MSM’s Supervisory Board, who told Observant last April that the university was going to take over this very hotel (Aparthotel Randwyck). The accommodation was, after all, MSM’s property and the university would be able to use it for another purpose, Frissen suggested at the time. In the meantime, it has become clear that the UM has no interest in it. FISH foundation, which runs the hotel, is taking care of the sale. Proceeds will go to the UM. It was to be the last hurdle before signing the merger between MSM and the School of Business and Economics. 

Ruling the roost

What was it that Dutch newspaper NRC published on Friday, 14 January? At any rate, that MSM pumped tremendous amounts of money into the maintenance and running of their hotel: “Annual reports and the minutes of meetings show that the FISH foundation was kept afloat with (interest-free) loans and advances by MSM, part of which has never been paid back.” In addition, the picture that emerges of the day-to-day running of the business school is not a pretty one. It is one of conflicts and favouring family, friends and fellow party members with assignments and jobs. Managers being allowed to rule the roost for longer than the statutes permit.

Enrichment

The UM emphatically distances itself from all that and refers in a reaction to “MSM’s governance in the past. We are not going to take over that structure.” On the other hand, the UM emphasises that “the upcoming integration of MSM in the UM organisation” is considered “an enrichment of its own education and project portfolio”. The university will be able to benefit from MSM’s large international network. They run projects and education and training programmes in developing areas and emerging economies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. These are areas where the School of Business and Economics wants to take steps.

Status of diplomas

Anyway, the UM appears to have racked – and is racking – its brain over the integration of MSM into the university. A takeover has been worked on since October 2018: this is attempt number seven. But with what kind of club is the UM getting mixed up with? Can legal or financial problems be expected?
From a so-called due diligence report, drawn up by KPMG and Boels Zanders, containing the strengths and weaknesses of MSM, it appears that the status of diplomas of outreach programmes formed the greatest risk. This is something that dean Peter Møllgaard already indicated last spring in a presentation to his faculty council members. In other words, have students who completed their Business Administration or Management programme outside the Netherlands, justifiably received their master’s degree? The UM wanted clarity from the Ministry of Education on this matter. Upon which the Education Inspectorate started an investigation in 2019, not just about the outreach programmes abroad, for that matter, but also about programmes in the Netherlands that were given by MSM.

15 thousand euro fine

The Inspectorate found that rules had been broken, MSM received a fine of 15 thousand euro. Until November 2019, MSM gave the master’s of Arts in Management in the Netherlands without NVAO accreditation. For more than two years, the degrees were issued unlawfully, the Inspectorate wrote in its report. MSM was in violation “because this means that misleading of (aspiring) students and/or employers can still occur.”
The other point about which the UM was in the dark – the validity of diplomas from outreach programmes – did not lead to a judgement by the Inspectorate. Laws and legislation were insufficiently clear on this, they explained. Although MSM does now ensure that its students take at least one quarter of the outreach programme in the Netherlands. The Inspectorate will continue to “monitor things” with regard to this theme.

Coordinator

Whether the revelations in NRC – has government funds been used for the hotel? – have influenced the takeover, is not clear. The annual subsidy from the Ministry of Education to MSM, at any rate, goes via the UM. Does this mean that the university only acts as ‘middleman’ for that money? Or does MSM have to account to the UM for its spending? In that case, was the university aware of the hotel issue? These and other questions like these are not answered by the Executive Board. The spokesperson said that nobody wants to “run ahead” of things, the university is “coordinator in this matter and will await the meeting with the ministry”.

Author: Wendy Degens

Photo: Shutterstock

Tags: msm,integration,merge,instagram

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