1 - Origins
The School of Business and Economics (SBE) was established as the Faculty of Economics in 1948. It has evolved to include business economics and, since 2000, business administration. This expanding scope has coincided with an increased focus on research, which has enhanced our teaching rather than detracted from it.
Executive and professional training has been established and expanded in parallel, initially encompassing accounting, control, and finance, and later extending to fields such as management consultancy, change management, and coaching.
SBE is one of the ten faculties of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. VU Amsterdam has a tradition of social involvement and is deeply committed to serving the public cause, discussing pre-scholarly assumptions rather than ignoring or repudiating them and embracing religious and cultural diversity. This dates back to our origins, as VU Amsterdam was founded in 1880 – with the modifier Vrije (free) denoting freedom from interference by either state or church. At first, the university was open only to members of the Dutch Reformed Church and was financed entirely by their fundraising efforts and donations.
Since the 1960s the university has been state-funded and is open to everyone. The emphasis on diversity and social involvement persists to this day and is highlighted in the vision of the School of Business and Economics.
2 - Values
Responsible means being constantly aware of the consequences of one’s actions. This awareness is cultivated through the active engagement of staff and students. In research, responsibility is reflected by the academic integrity of the faculty, clearly and transparently giving account of its vision on research, the realization of this vision, and the receptiveness to feedback. Moreover, faculty members actively participate in their research department, thus fostering the sense of community and strengthening the research output, resulting in high quality contributions.
In education, engagement manifests in the interaction between faculty and students, and interaction among students. The role of the faculty here is through lecturing and offering guidance. There is a sense of responsibility for each other and solidarity with one another, manifesting in collaboration between students. It is equally reflected in the strong emphasis on ethical behavior and personal responsibility throughout all levels of education.
Personal is reflected in the respectful treatment of each individual with a focus on the human dimension. The approach is recognizable in the way SBE sets the research agenda. We do not pursue a policy of ex-ante selection of research fields or research questions, as we are convinced that “picking winners” is not conducive to achieving excellence in research.
We believe that our researchers are naturally attracted to innovative and promising research questions and thrive in the stimulating environment of a successful research group. Moreover, the personal approach translates into a collegiate environment, characterized by personal involvement of faculty with students and among students and faculty. This involvement is partly shaped by the mentorship (student to student or senior to junior researcher) and the tutorial (lecturer to student) and is strengthened by the faculty organizational structure engaging students and faculty through various feedback and review groups, programmes and research boards, and representation committees. The result is a community of committed faculty, staff, and students.
Open translates into an inspiring meeting place in an environment that encourages interaction between individuals with diverse backgrounds, both students and faculty. Openness is rooted in the history of VU Amsterdam, with its strong tradition of individual attention, regardless of nationality, cultural or religious background, and social views.
The principle that knowledge is open to everyone is central in our research approach. We strongly believe in Open Access and encourage faculty members to open up their publications to students and academia as well as to a wider public.
Exchange of knowledge and confrontation with other perspectives leading to new insights is conducive to scholarly innovation with a societal impact. It also makes for open-minded graduates sensitive to social diversity.
3 - Roles
The raison d'être of the university is primarily reflected in the role of the Academic. The academic environment at SBE strongly emphasizes quality over quantity. SBE aims for quality theoretical and empirical research, giving rise to publications in leading journals relevant in Business and Economics.
Research is organized in twelve research programmes covering a wide range of Business, Economics, and Econometrics topics and is also closely aligned with the specializations and core contents of the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate degree programmes. The scholarly foundation of our educational programmes trains students to solve complex problems through methodical application of knowledge. Integration of academic research in the programme is the basis of education, in developing knowledge as well as academic skills. This integration derives from the "community of learners" principle, i.e., students and faculty process and create knowledge. This is reflected in specific learning curves in research, with courses in research methodology and philosophy that cultivate the skill to critique.
By participating in research projects guided by faculty or even cooperating in one of the research programmes, students are educated as Academics with thorough academic knowledge and skills.
SBE also features broadly oriented bachelor’s programmes. This broad scope gives students the opportunity to explore various disciplines within the programme and, through flexible curricula and generous elective latitude in the third year, to come to a carefully considered choice of specialization.
The structure enables students to customize the programme according to their needs. In the subsequent master’s stage, students have the opportunity to specialize further within that specific field and to prepare for careers as professionals or in research.
We feel that the duty of disseminating research findings to the professional world is almost as important as contributing to the academic body of knowledge. SBE School members are therefore active in the professional world through participation in the SBE Postgraduate School, through collaborative research with a wide range of companies and firms, and by presentation of their findings to the relevant professional bodies, both nationally and internationally.
Research questions may be focused on topics that are of professional interest. In education, SBE highlights developing practical skills and integrating scientific knowledge in practice (the extent varies depending on the programme). SBE students as Professionals are capable of applying their expert knowledge to solve professional problems in various types of organizations. In this process, input from society (representing market demand) figures in defining the ultimate requirements of the Professional. This approach facilitates the accession of SBE graduates to the labor market and their connection to needs in the industry, encompassing commercial and non-profit organizations, government, and professional service providers.
Graduates may also enter these markets as (self-employed) entrepreneurs, as reflected in enhanced specialist expertise, particularly in the master’s and postgraduate programmes. Imparting professional skills, including communication skills, is an important part of the programme.
SBE students and staff are driven by a strong sense of social responsibility. This means paying attention to the contextual awareness, differentiated according to time and place. Societal impact is considered a valuable result of our research and related activities. We aim for these activities to benefit both the development of debate and policy implementation in business, government, and civil society. School members are encouraged to contribute to the public debate. To this end, they conduct research on topics with a high societal impact, joining national and international think tanks or participating in government research projects. As a result, research faculty contribute significantly to societal development in a broad international and intercultural context.
Our graduates understand the social consequences of professional conduct. They are able to express and contribute responsibly to the societal developments, after cultivating this skill throughout the programme by relating industry-specific content to social issues. Ethics is an important element here and is a priority within the programme that builds citizenship. The international and intercultural surroundings are an additional central focus. Familiarity with diversity in culture, nationality, ideology, or previous education provides a strong foundation for socially responsible conduct in a society that is becoming increasingly global and pluralistic. This leads to students able to critique and reflect on socially relevant issues from a field-specific perspective.
The combination of these two dimensions, the content components Academic, Professional, and Citizen at our core, continuously influenced by the behavioral components Responsible, Personal, and Open, yields the unique profile of both the SBE as a School and the students graduating from it, as depicted in the figure below.