With the appointment of Robert Pans as Director of Business Relations at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics, the School aims to raise the dialogue with the corporate world to a higher level and at the same time expand the career services for its students.
Less than a month after his appointment, Robert Pans – who has worked for SBE since 1987 in various roles, from teacher in the Marketing and Organisation departments, to student advisor and Head of the Student Advising Office – tells Talkin’ Business about his ambitions as Director of Business Relations at SBE. Roger Dassen, Chairman of the Executive Board at Deloitte, honorary professor of Auditing at SBE and teaching professor at the Free University of Amsterdam, joins him in the discussion.
“As Director of Business Relations, I will support the School in establishing and maintaining business relationships, intensifying cooperation and developing long-term partnerships with businesses in the areas of education, research and labour market perspectives”, explains Robert Pans. “The logical starting point for realising this goal lies with an inventory of the existing business relationships of for example our staff and study associations, and we are also offered plenty of opportunities by our alumni who occupy leading positions in the international corporate world. In my new position, I want to act as a facilitator between parties, building bridges between the needs, interests, opportunities and knowledge of organisations, students, study associations and SBE staff.”
Interaction between science and practice
The appointment is perfectly aligned with one of the focus points of the School’s strategic plan: to intensify contacts with the business world. What is Robert Pans’ vision on the interaction between the academic and business worlds? “There is a huge potential in the interaction between the academic world and the corporate world. By establishing sustainable relationships, we are able to mutually benefit from the available expertise. Our students, for example, are stars at solving problems and applying and combining knowledge in new and creative ways. The interaction with organisations enables them to gain relevant experience and bring home a different view on the subject matter. Organisations, on the other hand, are able to profit from the student’s state-of-the art knowledge and skills and gain access to labour market potential. The added value lies in the interaction between science and practice.” Roger Dassen adds his viewpoint, from the perspective of an SBE business partner: “The development of a fruitful cooperation between universities and businesses is an absolute necessity, especially under the current economic circumstances. This is a way to create an optimal alignment between science and practice and to generate additional funding to raise education and research to a top level. For the university, it is an opportunity to attract the loyalty of the most talented students.”
Flexible forms of cooperation
SBE has long maintained relationships with all kinds of national and international businesses. “There are many opportunities ahead of us”, says Pans. “Together with our business partners, we are going to assess our joint fields of interest and ways in which we can prioritise these. Examples of durable cooperation can be found in our relationships with, for example, Deloitte, APG (The Netherlands’ largest pension fund) and CBS (Statistics Netherlands).” Pans sees more possibilities for cooperation: “In principle, a relationship with any type of organisation from any line of business is potentially valuable. After all, our graduates are trained for and employed in all sectors, in profit and non-profit organisations, in research, managerial or executive positions. Differences will exist in the level and duration of the cooperation and, of course, the type of cooperation, but it goes without saying that we are keen to establish new contacts. The form of cooperation can be determined on a case by case basis.”
The added value of being an SBE business partner
Roger Dassen tells us why a partnership with SBE is interesting for Deloitte: “Deloitte wants to be an employer of choice. As a service provider in the field of finance and business, we want to be the best and to have the best customers. In order for us to achieve that, we need to attract and retain the best talent to our organisation and become a student’s preferred employer as early as possible. Deloitte aims to be at the forefront of a student’s mind at every phase of his study. For that reason, we offer challenging final-year projects and traineeships, internationally, nationally and regionally. Moreover, Deloitte offers talented students – through the young entrepreneur initiative – the opportunity to taste entrepreneurship via a student company, for which Deloitte provides accountants.
In the field of research, we will jointly investigate which of Deloitte’s activities would be suitable for PhD research and we also want to set up a ‘young talent programme’ in the long run that encourages PhD students, postgraduate students and university staff to conduct research in their fields of preference. In addition, we will organise a bi-annual conference in one of Deloitte’s fields of expertise. For Deloitte, this is also a way to fulfil our corporate social responsibility and ensure that talent is retained in the Euregion.”
A broad range of interesting opportunities
What kind of joint activities are currently taking place? Pans: “First of all, there are many organisations that offer our students the possibility of an internship. But we also cooperate with organisations in other fields, ranging from joint research to providing guest speakers or contributing to the development of our curriculum. Of course, the availability of entry-level positions for graduates entering the labour market is also very important. There is actually a very broad range of interesting opportunities. This is why it is my intention in the coming period to investigate which of SBE’s products and services might be of interest to the corporate world and how we can shape this interaction. We may also be able to act as a lynchpin, creating liaisons between the corporate world and SBE or Maastricht University-related entrepreneurial initiatives such as the SME Portal, the Centre for Entrepreneurship, the Student Service Centre and Maastricht University Office. In this respect, I also want to explicitly mention SBE’s study associations, which have a vast network of business contacts and undertake great initiatives. The ‘corporate world – study associations – SBE’ triangle is a valuable one and the study associations are key in creating a win-win situation. I want to invest in ways to support them.”
To conclude, Robert Pans expresses his desire to bring organisations and students together: “It would be fantastic if the cooperation between the corporate world and SBE could provide our students with an in-depth image of the professional field and create a smooth transfer from study to career.”
Should you require further information feel free to contact Mr Pans directly by telephone +31 43-38 83846/83766 or per email Robert Pans