South-African Stellenbosch MBA students visit Maastricht

In the first week of July, UMIO welcomed Executive MBA students from University of Stellenbosch (USB) Business School for a European Management Residency, focusing on EU business themes and entrepreneurship. The residency is part of a fruitful and ongoing partnership between Maastricht University School of Business and Economics and University of Stellenbosch Business School, which also includes international exchanges in undergraduate programmes as well as research collaborations.

The European Management Residency offers our visiting delegations a European perspective on a changing world and provides them the tools and new insights for solving business or societal challenges on home soil. It encompasses balanced mix of interactive lectures, discussion forums, company visits, social events and a practical action-learning project.

The tailor-made programme, developed with University of Stellenbosch Business School, covered subjects such as the Macro-economic Environment in Europe, the European Economy and Brexit, Entrepreneurial Spirit and a week project dedicated to the toolbox of the Design thinking methodology. Company visits connect theory and practice.


There are a couple of things that stand out when talking to our South-African visitors: the value of the European perspective of the programme, the exposure to a different kind of entrepreneurship and the strong sense of cultural immersion which expresses itself in genuine enthusiasm about the city, its atmosphere and people.

It matches well with the objective of the international module from USB Associate Professor Marlize Terblanche-Smit’s point of view: “cultural, social and academic activities all are important parts of the program”.


The students attach great value to the European perspective of the programme. MBA Student Edwina Schoeman: “the visit to the EU offices were very interesting and offered some real eye-openers”.

The group had lectures and exchanges with Professor Michael Kaeding (professor in EU politics), high-ranking officials from the European Commission (Gaël Owen Du Bouëtiez, Directorate-General for Communication) and the European Economic & Social Committee (Alexander Alexandrov, Administrator in the ECO Section).

MBA Student Gerhard Landman observed: “I was impressed by the calibre of the people we talked to. It is very exciting to get a feel for the inner workings of the EU, to be actually there. In South Africa we tend to focus a lot on our own continent”.

As Marlize Terblanche-Smit remarks: “The program has a good flow, covering the economic situation in Europe, and the visits to the EU-institutions in Brussels give a good grounding for the rest of the program. The company visits and practical learning assignment make for a balanced mix of theory and practice, which makes the experience so valuable.”


The element of entrepreneurship from a Design Thinking perspective, offered to the students by Damien Nunes and Sabine Janssen from UMIO’s Service Science Factory, also proved very valuable according to Marlize Terblanche-Smit: “It offers an immersion in entrepreneurial thinking, with case studies, in a different approach from our own university. Visits to international companies in the region link theory to practice. The module also provides the tools for integrating academia and business practice from a different angle. All students are very positive.”


Then there is the cultural immersion part, or “Maastricht Experience”. The genuine enthusiasm about the city, its atmosphere and people is palpable in the group. For the Afrikaner students it is of course a special experience to be able to communicate with the locals in Afrikaans and Dutch, without the need for a continuous translation. Another shared feature is the well-developed beer culture, which invites “scientific” sampling.

These students are nearing the end of a long two-year MBA programme, with 20 hours of additional work a week, on top of their busy professional lives. Therefore, it should not surprise us that here and there, the satisfaction and enthusiasm are tinged with a sense of relief… Who can blame them! We wish this warm and outgoing group of MBA students the very best, both personally and professionally.