MaastrichtMBA among the world’s best sustainable MBAs

UMIO’s MaastrichtMBA programme moves up the grade on sustainable development as it impressively managed to rank 16th globally in the newly published 2020 Better World MBA Ranking organised by Corporate Knights. With this position, Maastricht University School of Business and Economics also tops the chart of Dutch business schools in a longlist of 150 internationally ranked and accredited institutes worldwide.

Sustainability showcase for top business schools

The 2020 Corporate Knights Better World MBA Ranking evaluates 150 business schools, drawn from the 2019 Financial Times list of Top 100 Global MBA programmes, every programme that made 2019 Better World’s top-40 roster and business schools accredited by AMBA, AACSB or EQUIS that opt-in for evaluation.

From this pool, programmes are evaluated across sustainability-focused articles and citations, courses that incorporate sustainable development topics, research institutes and centres devoted to sustainable development issues, and faculty gender as well as racial diversity. As such, the Corporate Knights’ ranking provides prospective students with a good reference to the scope and scale of education and research in these areas, which are becoming more and more important to design a bright future for current and future generations in business and society.

About Corporate Knights

Founded in 2002, Corporate Knights Inc. includes the sustainable business magazine ‘Corporate Knights’ and a research division that produces rankings and financial product ratings based on corporate sustainability performance, including the ‘Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World’. Corporate Knights was named ‘Magazine of the Year’ in 2013 and won the ‘SABEW Canada Silver Award for Investigative Reporting’ in 2019.

‘Triple Crown’ accreditation

Apart from MaastrichtMBA’s appearance in global rankings, the programme – as part of UMIO and Maastricht University School of Business and Economics – is also accredited by the three leading international quality assurance bodies: AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA. This ‘Triple Crown’ accreditation represents an objective quality stamp that only 1% of all business schools worldwide are allowed to use.

Via this link you can read the Corporate Knights press release concerning the 2020 Better World MBA Ranking.

Handwashing Angels –  Creating social impact using a behavioural approach

Can we change children’s hygiene behaviour for the good and make handwashing a beautiful ritual?

Yes we can.

Hand washing with soap is one of the simplest ways to help keep children healthy. Hand hygiene is also one of the prioritized topics on public health agendas worldwide. The World Health Organization raised awareness of the importance of hand hygiene and its impact in preventing the spread of infectious diseases through campaigns such as “Clean Hands Save Lives”. Yet, according to UNICEF, today we see nearly 900 million children who have either limited or no hand washing service at their school and a staggering 47% of schools worldwide do not have handwashing facilities with soap and water.

Behaviour changes that really work

The Handwashing Angels initiative has been brought to life by Maastricht University | UMIO, Diversey, and Benthurst & Co under the flag of the social engagement programme.  Edward Huizenga, Professor in Strategy, Innovation and Change at UMIO | Maastricht University who is the initiator of the programme, remarks, “It is our belief that a passionate team effort leads to behaviour change for the good that really works”.  It is designed to help children in developing countries improve their daily hygiene using a ‘blue & behaviour’ child hand soap.

Most children in developing countries haven’t been raised with hand washing as a priority. Even with the increase in the accessibility of water and soap, it seems difficult to change habits and increase hand hygiene. Determined to break that vicious circle, a global team took a behaviour point of view to build hand hygiene into a daily routine for young children. The team started the ‘Hand Washing Angels’ initiative in late 2019 with a ‘blue and behaviour’ design that involved over 4.000 handwashing moments with children at the Royal Gate School, in Bondo Kenya.

7 steps to changing habits for the long-run

With the help of Diversey, a tailor-made prototype of blue foaming hand soap was developed to provide a new sensorial experience that increased the visibility of the hand washing process. In parallel, a 7-step hand washing motivation approach was developed. The global team included nudging and behavior change techniques, applied them to hand washing, and put a habit building mechanism in place to make daily hygiene habits become a reality. Furthermore, the field study showed children’s excitement extended to the family behaviour at home which was a real game changer.

Children taking the initiatives back home

Based on the surveys done, the children’s response to the initiative was the most significant;

“All the kids told us that they would wash their hands like this at home. Additionally, every kid was excited to show what they had learnt to their families at home. If they actually follow through on this, that would mean that the Handwashing Angels project does not just create a habit of good behaviour for the kids in the project, but has a far wider reach: all the way to the family members at home!”

Based on the positive outcomes of this pilot at the end of 2019, the team is now aiming to scale it up across schools on the African continent soon, starting in Uganda. Paul Blankers, one of the team members who witnessed the full pilot at Royal Gate School remarked, “Helping them was nice, empowerment is what they need right now”. The development of the COVID-19 global pandemic, just a few months after the pilot was concluded, highlights the vital importance of making hand washing part of the daily routines among children all over the world and will hopefully help prevent infections.

More information? Please reach out to Edward Huizenga at


Diarrhea kills nearly two million people worldwide each year, out of which 1.5 million are children. Nearly 90% is attributed to spoiled water and poor hygiene. A staggering 47% of schools worldwide do not have hand washing facilities with soap and water.

Online hackathon helps companies move forward

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Limburg are hit hard by the corona crisis. UMIO|Maastricht University came to the rescue of entrepreneurs by organising an online hackathon in collaboration with MKB-Limburg, the association for SMEs in Limburg. An army of 118 talented and creative master’s students from Maastricht University searched for viable innovative solutions for companies in the event sector (MECC Maastricht), tourism (Maastricht Marketing) and retail (Riviera Retro).

“A hackathon provides a means to accelerate innovation”, says Sabine Janssen. As head of UMIO’s Service Science Factory (SSF) she coordinated the online hackathon. “A hackathon is a design sprint in which solutions are found for business challenges with co-creation. That makes a hackathon ideal for helping companies during the corona crisis, but certainly also for the period after that. After all, many companies need an adapted business model to survive in the post-corona era.”

Interesting and accessible challenges

In the beginning of April, entrepreneurs could submit their business challenge via the MKB-Limburg Ondernemersplatform (platform for entrepreneurs). The hackathon organisation then selected three broadly supported challenges in the events, tourism and retail sector. Janssen: “Within those sectors, the challenges of MECC Maastricht, Maastricht Marketing and Riviera Retro proved to be the most suitable, because of the added value of students’ perspectives. They can easily relate to the relevant contexts and see many best practice cases around them.”

Design thinking

Spread over 24 teams, the 118 master’s students started on 22 April with the preparations for the hackathon, which took place a week later. How has the sector been affected? Who is the customer? What are the main needs and challenges of the organisation and the customer? These and other questions were examined in this preparatory phase. For each challenge, the students had to develop a customer-oriented and practical solution with the main question ‘How can we let business flourish again, during and after the relaxation of the lockdown, if the one and a half meter economy is the new reality?’

“During the hackathon day, the students worked according to the design thinking methodology”, Janssen explains. “This methodology helps to approach challenges from the perspective of the customer and the perspective of the organisation. The students also looked at the challenge through glasses of opportunity. How could the business model be adapted so that the company emerges from this crisis better, stronger and faster? Fresh, innovative and practical ideas were further specified and co-created with the challenge owners. The students were supervised online by five coaches from the Service Science Factory (SSF) and two marketing teachers from Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE). In addition, the students could enter into a 1-on-1 conversation with the challenge owners in the afternoon, so that they could validate their assumptions and solutions and build on a solution together with the owners.”

Sabine Janssen at work during the hackathon day.

Many innovative solutions

After the hackathon day, the students had a week to concretise their solutions based on the input of the challenge owners and to work on the storytelling of their pitch. After the presentations, the so-called student vote took place whereby the teams could vote among themselves on the different solutions. This resulted in a top two in each category. All entrepreneurs of MKB-Limburg and friends of UMIO could then vote on these solutions, which led to one winning idea per category.

The hackathon organisation and the challenge owners were impressed by the many innovative solutions that were submitted. The challenge of manager Jop Thissen of MECC Maastricht was to organise an attractive Limburg Leads event after the summer, despite all the limitations of the one and a half meter society. “One of the proposed solutions was to develop an app with which you can already link the entrepreneurs based on their interests”, says Thissen. “As a result, they will start looking for each other instead of just walking around in the hall. You can also indicate in the app where it is busy and where you should stay away for a while. A walking route like in IKEA was also a very good idea. Everyone can imagine that. But the most original idea was the goody bag. You hand them out upon entry. This includes, for example, a hand soap with logo and a mouth mask. That gives a positive feeling to the visitors because getting a gift is always fun.”

Inspiration for entrepreneurs

“It was unique and exciting at the same time to establish effective online collaboration in a hackathon of this size”, concludes Sabine Janssen. “Overall, I like the fact that this outside-in method has provided fresh, customer-oriented solutions with which the challenge owners can get to work. In addition, other entrepreneurs can find inspiration at, as we have published all the hackathon solutions there.

I would like to thank MKB-Limburg as a partner in this hackathon, and in particular project leader Karin van der Ven of the MKB-Limburg Ondernemersplatform for making this collaboration possible.”

More information

Do you want to know more about the concept of hackathons and what it can do for your organisation? Then please contact Sabine Janssen at the Service Science Factory (SSF) via

Webinar series ‘Moving Forward Together’ gets a follow-up

A follow-up series of our initiative ‘Moving Forward Together’ will kick off on May 28, shining a light on the next phase of the pandemic.

We’re open! Reflections by Professor Piet Eichholtz

Fewer meetings are being held, education is being provided in a different way, and some scientific studies are affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But Maastricht University is open! Within the available opportunities, staff and students are doing everything in their power to remain active and productive. In the story series ‘We’re open!’ on the university website, you can read about these members of our community.

This week, Piet Eichholtz, Professor of Real Estate Finance at the School of Business and Economics, reflects on how the coronavirus crisis is ineluctably embedded in economic, political and ethical issues.

Read the full interview with Piet Eichholtz here.

The possibilities and future of online education

Online education has been on the rise in recent years, but the corona crisis has accelerated this development. In March, all educational institutions in The Netherlands, including Maastricht University, had to switch from offline to online education in no time. Before the virus turned our world upside down, we spoke with Dr. Boris Blumberg about the possibilities and future of online education.

Normally, Problem-Based Learning is central in the education of Maastricht University. Personal contact between students and between teacher and student plays an important role in this system. When the government announced that all educational institutions in our country had to close immediately, our largely offline university suddenly turned into an online university. Both technically and didactically, teachers and other employees had to adapt to a completely different way of working. Now that we are a few weeks later, it seems that students and staff are slowly getting used to their new daily routine. In studies that allow this, the university will continue to offer online education until the end of the academic year.


In early March, when everything was still ‘normal’, we spoke to Dr. Boris Blumberg about online education. As captain of MaastrichtMBA, he was closely involved in setting up and organising the EuroMBA Online Track. This online MBA programme has been part of the MBA portfolio of UMIO since 1 January 2020. The biggest advantage of online education is the flexibility it offers, Blumberg acknowledges. “By attending online education, students are not tied to a fixed location and can decide for themselves when to study and at what pace”, says the MBA captain. “This can be an interesting option for professionals with a busy job, but also for people who naturally prefer to sit behind a laptop than next to a fellow student. In addition, it offers opportunities for people who live in remote areas. We may not be bothered by that in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium, but I know that, for example, Stellenbosch University in South Africa has many students who have to deal with it.”

Relocation of infrastructure

Do educational institutions themselves also benefit from offering online education? Is it, for example, cheaper than offering regular education? Blumberg thinks that nothing sensible can be said about that at this stage. “Replacing regular education with online education is actually a shift in infrastructure and therefore costs”, he says. “After all, you replace classrooms with server rooms, online platforms and other online facilities. And make no mistake, those facilities also cost a lot of money. I think it is currently still very difficult to make a statement about the difference in costs between the two types of education.”

EuroMBA Online Track

Lower costs are therefore certainly not the reason why Maastricht University started the EuroMBA Online Track on 1 January 2020. Blumberg: “Compared to the US and the UK, we are lagging behind in online university programmes in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium. For the past 25 years, UMIO was a partner in the EuroMBA programme. When this programme was discontinued last year, we decided to create a new online MBA track to serve an emerging market. It was high time to start with this, because other markets have already developed much further.

Dr. Boris Blumberg.

Here, the megatrend of digitalisation comes into play. The opportunities to provide high quality online education have grown tremendously. The quality of video and audio is much better than a few years ago, as is the quality of online education platforms. And for our MBA target group it is very natural to communicate digitally; after all, they have been using mobile devices for most of their lives.”

The different nationalities of the students are a major strength of the EuroMBA Online Track. “The students all have different backgrounds and different world views. By discussing and exchanging ideas, they enrich each other’s thinking. That is very valuable. The personal approach is also a strength of our programme. There are 3 residential weeks in which the students come together at various universities in Europe. And within the online modules we work with small groups. We will never allow mass groups of students, because then we cannot guarantee personal attention. Last but not least, the education of the EuroMBA Online Track is of high quality. We work with top teachers and have maximum international recognition with our Triple Crown accreditation from the AACSB, EQUIS and AMBA institutions. Our track recently finished as the highest-ranked online MBA study in the Netherlands in CEO Magazine’s Global Online MBA Ranking. Globally, we finished in 13th place. That says a lot about the quality we offer.”

Blumberg is not afraid that the EuroMBA Online Track will keep students away from the Executive MBA Track of MaastrichtMBA. “I think it is important that students choose Maastricht University, and in that respect we have only increased the MBA options. So hopefully we will be able to bring more students here.”

High quality education

Online courses are often criticised because there is little or no proper and regular interaction between students and teachers and students. As a result, students may not be able to learn at the same level as students in regular education. What does the MBA captain think about this criticism? “There is some truth in it, of course”, he begins. “You give lectures via the internet and have no influence on what the students actually do behind their laptop. In addition, you cannot simply cast your regular 1.5-hour lectures in the format of a webinar. After half an hour of screen time people drop out. It must therefore be shorter, without this being at the expense of depth and differentiated thinking. You have to be creative with that. On the other hand, current techniques allow us to monitor much better to what extent students have really learned. We can find out exactly how long they have been active within our platform and what they have contributed.

As I mentioned earlier, we keep the level of education high by giving students a lot of personal attention. In addition, we ensure that the assignments for students are of master’s level. This means that we do not work with multiple-choice answers and that we assess the result – be it a paper, presentation or video – with substantive feedback. So not only a grade, but also an explanation. The students learn from that.”

Online versus regular

Online education is the future, according to Blumberg, but that will never be completely at the expense of regular education. “There are always people who have a strong preference for face-to-face education. In addition, not every subject is suitable for online education. For example, an ICT course such as learning to code is very easy to set up online. However, that does not apply to a management course on leadership skills. Personal contact is very important in this. That is why we chose the balance between online modules and residential weeks on location at the EuroMBA Online Track.

Maastricht University has always been an innovative player within the Dutch academic playing field, and I think that we are now also confirming this reputation in the digital age.”

If you are interested in more information about MaastrichtMBA, then please visit

Webinar series | Moving forward together

Join us online in April and May for a live series of five webinars that address some of the most urgent and important questions for any individual or organisation dealing with the consequences of the current corona pandemic.

We aim to open up a dialogue with professionals and organisations to create a joined understanding of what would be the best way forward. Each webinar will start with a 15-20 minutes presentation by the speaker, followed by a 15-20 minutes live debate and Q&A with participants.

Register now!

You can register yourself here for the webinars you like.

UMIO werkt mee aan ondernemersplatform coronacrisis

De coronacrisis heeft een enorme economische impact, waarbij geen enkele sector buiten schot blijft. Om deze crisis het hoofd te bieden, is het cruciaal dat we elkaar helpen. Daarom heeft MKB-Limburg een interactief platform opgezet voor ondernemers in Limburg. UMIO is als expert betrokken bij dit initiatief. Met behulp van een forum, trainingen en andere activiteiten brengt het online platform ondernemers en experts bij elkaar. Deelname aan het platform is gratis voor alle ondernemers in Limburg.

Op het forum van het platform kunnen ondernemers en experts elkaar treffen om informatie uit te wisselen over verschillende onderwerpen. Hier kunnen ze van elkaar leren en elkaar inspireren.

Afgelopen maandag ging het online trainingsprogramma van start op het platform. Dit programma bestaat uit verschillende online trainingen die als doel hebben om in verbinding met elkaar de huidige problematiek het hoofd te bieden. Elke week komt een nieuwe module aan bod. De thema’s van de modules zijn: Inventarisatie, Crisismanagement, Netwerken & Samenwerken, Inspireren, Innovatie & Efficiëntie en Toekomstbestendig Denken.

Naast het forum en de trainingen kunnen ondernemers wekelijks deelnemen aan een live Q&A-sessie met experts, bestuurders, vertegenwoordigers van belangen- en brancheverenigingen en ervaren business coaches.


Ben je als ondernemer actief in Limburg? Meld je dan gratis aan voor het platform via en doe mee!

We’re open! Mark Levels and social order in times of corona

Fewer meetings are being held, education is being provided in a different way, and some scientific studies are affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But Maastricht University is open! Within the available opportunities, staff and students are doing everything in their power to remain active and productive. In the story series ‘We’re open!’ on the university website, you can read about these members of our community.

This week, Professor Mark Levels of the Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA) talks about the influence of the corona crisis on his daily work. As research leader of the international consortium Technequality, he was due to speak last week at the AI Summit in Brussels organised by the journalism platform Politico. The measures to limit the spread of coronavirus threw a spanner in the works. Other than that, it’s business as usual for Mark these days – although his alarm clock is going off earlier than usual, and after-work drinks are now held online.

Read the full interview with Mark here.


The UM-led consortium Technequality, set up by Mark Levels and Raymond Montizaan, brings together a multidisciplinary group of experts from prestigious HEI’s around Europe to work with policy-makers to address AI and robotisation’s impact on the labour market. The research is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. Go to for more information on Technequality.

UMIO ondersteunt LIOF bij opzetten nieuwe strategie 2025

Where to play and how to play? Deze vraag stond centraal bij de ontwikkeling van de nieuwe strategie van LIOF voor de periode 2021-2025. De LIOF-directie wenste vanuit een outside-in perspectief de strategie te ontwikkelen, waarbij ‘Imagine Limburg in 2025’ als een blauwdruk centraal stond om een betere en duurzamere toekomst voor de regio te realiseren. Carmen Vonken en Edward Huizenga werden ingeschakeld om dit proces namens UMIO te begeleiden.

Het was LIOF-directeur Tys van Elk die UMIO benaderde om samen proactief en op een vernieuwende manier werk te maken van de nieuwe strategie voor 2021-2025. De rol van UMIO was om te onderzoeken bij welke maatschappelijke uitdagingen in de regio LIOF een rol van betekenis kan spelen en te adviseren hoe die rol kan worden ingevuld. Dit resulteerde in december 2019 in een adviesrapport voor een nieuwe strategie.

Carmen Vonken.

Plan van aanpak

Naast Carmen Vonken als projectleider en prof. dr. Edward Huizenga als strategisch expert, bestond het projectteam uit een projectcoördinator van LIOF en 9 studenten van Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics (SBE). Op basis van 2 intensieve meetings met het managementteam van LIOF stelden Vonken en Huizenga een plan van aanpak op voor het onderzoek. “Dat bestond onder meer uit 31 interviews met verschillende partijen in Limburg, België en Duitsland”, aldus Vonken. “Naast vertegenwoordigers van MKB-bedrijven uit verschillende sectoren interviewden de studenten onder andere vertegenwoordigers van VNO-NCW, diverse banken, Fontys Hogescholen, MKB Limburg, Industrie- und Handelskammer, maar ook de RvC-leden van LIOF.”

Prof. dr. Edward Huizenga.

3 duurzame transitiethema’s

De presentatie van de eerste onderzoeksresultaten voor LIOF en Provincie Limburg werd gecombineerd met een co-creatiesessie met deze partijen. “Daarin hebben we kritisch gekeken naar de overlap tussen wat de markt wil en waar LIOF kan helpen”, geeft Huizenga aan. “Vervolgens hebben we samen een prioritering gemaakt van de verschillende thema’s, hetgeen 3 doelthema’s opleverde: gezondheidstransitie, energietransitie en grondstoffentransitie. De studenten hebben deze thema’s daarna verder uitgediept. Ze gingen daarbij op zoek naar antwoorden op vragen als: Welke sectoren zijn belangrijk binnen deze thema’s? Wat is de economische impact? Wat wordt al gedaan in de regio op deze gebieden? Welke partijen zijn belangrijk? Hoeveel werkgelegenheidsgroei is er binnen de sectoren?”

Economische verbinder

Aansluitend vond een nieuwe co-creatiesessie plaats, deze keer met LIOF, Provincie Limburg en het Ministerie van Economische Zaken en Klimaat (EZK). “Daarin hebben we gezamenlijk gekeken naar de rol van LIOF”, legt Vonken uit. “LIOF bood tot nu toe netwerk, advies en financiering, maar er zijn wellicht ook nieuwe rollen weggelegd voor de organisatie. Is LIOF bijvoorbeeld niet de ideale economische verbinder binnen de regio? Daar hebben we kritisch naar gekeken. 2 weken later presenteerden we ons adviesrapport aan alle LIOF-medewerkers. Zij reageerden positief en enthousiast. Dit rapport is als het ware een blauwdruk voor de nieuwe strategie van LIOF. Cross-sector en cross-border samenwerking spelen daarin een belangrijke rol.”

Veel voldoening

Zowel Carmen Vonken als Edward Huizenga kijkt tevreden terug op de samenwerking met LIOF. Vonken: “Ik vind het mooi dat we een grote groep professionals binnen en buiten LIOF bij dit project hebben kunnen betrekken, en daarmee ook draagvlak hebben gecreëerd voor de strategieformulering. Tijdens de eindpresentatie merkten we dat het gezamenlijke doel van een nieuwe strategie voor de regio echt leeft bij alle betrokkenen, dat was geweldig om te zien! Daarnaast vond ik het prettig om te vernemen dat LIOF zeer tevreden was over de kwaliteit van ons werk en de studenten.”

“Het geeft mij veel voldoening dat we op een inclusieve manier een strategie hebben ontworpen die betekenisvol is in het dagelijks leven van mensen en bedrijven in de regio”, geeft Huizenga aan. “Deze strategie raakt aan de grote maatschappelijke uitdagingen van gezondheid tot voeding en de grondstoffen- en energietransitie. Zo maken UMIO en LIOF de strategie betekenisvol vanaf dag 1.”

Verdere invulling

LIOF is in 2020 direct aan de slag gegaan met de verdere invulling van de strategie op basis van het strategieplan van UMIO. Het gezondheidstransitiethema wordt als eerste volledig uitgewerkt in een meerjarenstappenplan.