School history

School history

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) first opened its doors in 1970 in an elegant villa in the Rotterdam suburb of Kralingen. From these humble beginnings, RSM has grown into one of Europe’s most successful and internationally-recognised business schools, as reflected in the research and programme rankings of national and international media.

Over the years RSM has added to its portfolio of programmes to reflect changes and trends in business. It now offers two bachelor programmes, and 19 pre-and post-experience master programmes.

RSM also offers four MBA programmes including the Cologne-Rotterdam Executive MBA launched in 2016, the Executive MBA programme for experienced and globally-oriented professional launched in 1995, and the world’s first truly global MBA programme in partnership with four top business schools located in four continents, the Global Executive OneMBA, launched in 2002.

RSM also offers a range of executive education programmes as well as a part-time PhD and full-time PhD programmes.

In keeping with its highly international approach, RSM actively recruits students from all over the world for all of its programmes. It currently has an office in Chengdu so it can bring its services to mainland China. In the recent past, it also had offices in Taipei, Taiwan, and in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, in order to offer its services to local populations.

In the beginning

RSM’s alma mater, Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) has been in existence in its present form since 1973. Its history, however, dates back to 1913, the year in which the Netherlands School of Commerce (Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool, NHH) was founded through private initiative with broad support from the Rotterdam business community. The Netherlands School of Commerce became the Netherlands School of Economics in 1939. 

Almost 30 years later, in 1966, it commissioned an investigation into the feasibility of a Graduate School of Management, thus establishing a separate field of study dedicated to business administration. Two years later, Delft University of Technology joined the initiative.

At the same time, a consensus on the lack of suitable post-experience training and higher educational facilities for managers in the Netherlands spurred Dutch-based multinationals including Royal Dutch Shell, Unilever and Philips to establish the Foundation for Business Administration, an institute for post-academic management education. The founding partners donated 4.5 million guilders (about 2.2 million euros). They include the following organisations (and their predecessors):

  • Algemene Bank Nederland (ABN AMRO)
  • Algemene Kunstzijde Unie (AkzoNobel)
  • Amsterdam-Rotterdam Bank (ABN AMRO)
  • Koninklijke Hoogovens en Staalfabrieken (TATA)
  • Koninklijke Zout/ Ketjen (AkzoNobel)
  • Philips Gloeilampen Fabriek
  • Shell
  • Unilever

The result, inaugurated in 1969, was the Interfaculteit Bedrijfskunde / Graduate School of Management, a joint initiative of the schools of economics, law and social sciences of the Netherlands School of Economics, and of the schools of civil, mechanical and maritime engineering and general sciences at Delft University of Technology.

The School became the first in the Netherlands to offer the degree Doctorandus in de Bedrijfskunde post-kandidaats, for students with a university qualification in a non-business discipline. 

The School’s early beginnings were on a small scale. In 1970 the first class of 30 students – selected from hundreds of applicants – started their studies. From the very start, the School held a policy of international orientation. In 1972 it moved to Delft and was remodelled into the newly established Interuniversitaire Interfaculteit Bedrijfskunde / Graduate School of Management Delft of the Interuniversity Institute for Business Administration (Interuniversitair Instituut Bedrijfskunde, IIB). In November of the same year, the first cohort graduated with the new academic degree Doctorandus in de Bedrijfskunde (Drs.) – and the alumni association was formally established the same day: the Alumni Association VIB, the Vereniging van afgestudeerden van de Interfaculteit Bedrijfskunde

Recent history

RSM’s more recent history in the 1980s and 1990s saw a decade of changes and expansion, and the development of the RSM that we might recognise today. After 12 years in Delft, the school moved to Rotterdam in 1984 and became part of Erasmus University. Because of a change in the Dutch higher education system, new degree programmes were started, first in 1984 with the four-year Doctorandus programme in Business Administration (Bedrijfswetenschappen), then in 1985 the International MBA Programme began, and in 1986 the PhD in Management Programme.

In 1989 the doctoral programme was established in addition to executive education programmes. In 1993, the ERASM research school was founded, bringing together researchers from the Faculty of Business Administration and the School of Economics. Known today as the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), it has since become one of Europe’s leading management research facilities. In 1995 the Part-time Doctorandus in Business Administration (Bedrijfswetenschappen) was launched as well as the Executive MBA Programme, and in 1999, a further series of executive education programmes were initiated. 


Steps towards internationalisation were taken in 1975 when the curriculum was revised, and from 1977 onwards the focus turned towards internationalisation of the School. The first exchange programme was established with Wharton in 1977, and the number of English-language modules with an international focus expanded. In 1984, the four-year doctorandus programme was launched. The first European CEMS master degree was conferred in 1991, as a result of RSM’s assimilation into the prestigious international CEMS network. In addition to being a member of the CEMS consortium with its MSc in International Management/CEMS programme, RSM is also a member of the OneMBA consortium (for the Global Executive OneMBA). Other partners include the PIM network, the EFMD network, GMAC and ACE.

In 2003, the international bachelor programme (IBA) – an English-language bachelor programme with a recruitment target of 50 per cent of students from outside the Netherlands – was established. From 2006, all master programmes have been taught in English.

The school continues to internationalise, today claiming a place among the most international schools in Europe, hosting over 80 nationalities from all over the globe, and has partnered with the University of Cologne in Germany to offer an Executive MBA, and with several Chinese business schools to develop close co-operations for research and education

Chengdu office

RSM’s services have been available in mainland China since 2015, when the RSM China Office opened in Chengdu. The RSM China office offers a range of services to prospective students, corporate partners, and alumni, based in mainland China.

  • information and application guidance for BSc, MSc and MBA programmes
  • alumni network contact and services
  • information sessions hosted by RSM’s representatives.

The China office also maintains RSM’s relationships with its academic partners; renowned research universities and business schools with which RSM has established dual degree programmes and exchange relationships.

Representatives from the RSM China Office in Chengdu participate in higher education fairs throughout mainland China, and activities with local high schools.


RSM was among the first European schools to receive AACSB accreditation in 1998. What’s more, RSM is among the 1 per cent (74) of schools worldwide with Triple Crown accreditation, meaning it also has AMBA (1996) and EQUIS (1998) accreditations. Triple accreditation is an indicator of exclusive quality and highlights RSM’s international reputation. 

RSM has also been accredited by the Netherlands Academy of Arts and Science (KNAW) since 1999, and by the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organisation (NVAO) since 2007. 

In 2019, the school appointed Ansgar Richter as Dean. He is professor of Corporate Strategy, Organisation and Governance. He holds and MSc in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management, and a PhD in Management from London School of Economics. His research interests are at the interface of strategy, organisation and governance: dynamic capabilities, organisational design, incentives, ownership and justice in organisations, and the strategy and structure of professional service firms.