Building leaders of the future: Executive Education at VU Amsterdam

Building leaders of the future: Executive Education at VU Amsterdam


In 2020, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam) launched two new MBA programmes. Bas Bosma, Associate Dean of Executive Education at VU Amsterdam, shares why the school decided to introduce MBA programmes into its Executive Education portfolio, how the field of education is changing, and the importance of engaging businesses in Executive Education.

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Why VU Amsterdam decided to launch two new MBA programmes

In 2020, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam launched two new MBA programmes: the MBA in International Business and the Executive MBA: Leading with Purpose. So, why did VU Amsterdam introduce MBA programmes into their Executive Education portfolio? And why now?

“The mission statement of the VU is "science with purpose." We believe that organisations and businesses have a large role to play in shaping society,” Bas says. “That is basically why we have moved into MBAs. The other programmes we already had were, as a portfolio, really complete - but there was no real overarching programme aimed at this leadership development in its fullness.”

Both MBA programmes at VU Amsterdam are targeted at “leaders of the future.” Bas elaborates, “We think that the leaders of the future need skills that are not traditionally in an MBA programme. In terms of shareholders and stakeholders, it’s a bit broader than just the bottom line. It’s about new leadership skills, it’s about multidisciplinarity, it’s about the latest research. It’s for leaders in all sorts of businesses around the world.”

Topics like sustainability, ethics, and digital innovation are dominating the discussion in today’s business world. VU Amsterdam’s MBA programmes bring a much-needed holistic approach to leadership development, anchored in purpose, impact, and ambition.

Lifelong learning: Blending career and education

In developing their new MBA programmes, the team at VU Amsterdam considered the changing nature of life and education today. “Traditionally, we’ve seen three sequential phases of a person’s life, where it is education first and then career and then retirement,” Bas explains. Nowadays, however, all of these life phases blend together. This means you might start with education and then move into your career, but education never stops. For Bas and VU Amsterdam, “that is a very good thing.”

In the future, Bas postulates, “We see people having long careers and within those careers, people will re-educate themselves. We want to facilitate this blending and this more fluid approach to one’s life. That’s where Executive Education fits in.” Besides their MBA portfolio, VU Amsterdam offers a wide variety of lifelong learning opportunities. This includes shorter, more topical, non-degree programmes, like Data-Driven Steering in the Public Sector, Servant Leadership, and International Cash Management.

Engaging business and society

While career and education start to blend together, business also has a huge role to play. From programme design to delivery to evaluation, businesses are becoming increasingly involved in the whole education cycle. As part of the Amsterdam Zuidas, the city’s financial and business district, VU Amsterdam works closely with surrounding businesses.

Over 700 international companies are located in the Zuidas, from Google to BCG to Goldman Sachs. As Bas puts it, “Being so close to the businesses is really helping us in achieving our mission of having an impact on society, because we’re really a part of the fabric that we are trying to have an impact on.”

When it comes to evaluating their courses, the team at VU Amsterdam engages in a real effort of co-creation in which they collaborate with businesses, students, and alumni to continuously improve their programmes and, ultimately, build leaders of the future.

The future of Executive Education at VU Amsterdam

Looking forward, Bas is excited to dive deeper into MBA education at VU Amsterdam. He says, “What I think is very interesting is the multidisciplinarity of a research-oriented university like the VU, with a clear mission from 140 years back in changing and impacting society.”

“We are a very open institution, we do well on the Sustainable Development Goals. We really always look to the impact we can make on society at large,” Bas adds. “MBA [programmes are] a vehicle that we have recently discovered. It’s perhaps one of the most interesting vehicles because of the role we see for businesses.”

In 2020, VU Amsterdam launched not one but two(!) new MBA programmes. With the ever-changing landscape of business and leadership today, everyone will undoubtedly continue to see new innovative and impactful MBA programmes from VU Amsterdam.



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