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RSM entirely unable to identify with report’s conclusions on ties with the fossil fuel industry

Neither the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) nor Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) can identify with the conclusions set out in Vatan Hüzeir and Germain Fraser’s report, entitled ‘A Pipeline of Ideas – How the Rotterdam School of Management facilitates climate change by collaborating with the fossil fuel industry’, regarding ties between RSM and the fossil fuel industry. The report is tendentious, biased and contains factual errors, and is not up to academic standards.



The report portrays RSM as giving the fossil fuel industry an opportunity to influence education and research at the institution; this is simply not true. Our reaction and conclusions* can be found here.

Companies have no say in education or research

The researchers suggest that companies like Shell have an influence on the EUR curricula. The process of developing and formulating a curriculum is handled with great care within the university – with scholars and students participating. Neither Shell nor any other company plays a formal part in this process. Of course, external organisations and stakeholders are involved during the accreditation process and programme evaluations. After all, the extent to which an academic programme connects to the requirements of the employment market is an important factor in students’ decisions to enrol in that programme.

Furthermore, the report questions the academic integrity of two RSM professors. These accusations are unfounded. The academic independence of the researchers in question has not been affected by their contacts with the private sector – they do not work for Shell.

Collaboration with private sector is a ‘must’

The report’s conclusion – that RSM is an accessory to climate change – is not only groundless, it is also fundamentally incorrect. RSM takes the position that collaboration with all sectors of the economy plays an important role in the realisation of the crucial energy transition and the UN’s sustainable development goals.

RSM maintains relationships with companies from a wide range of industrial sectors, not just the fossil fuel industry. This includes firms like Sanoma, Randstad, Fairtrade International, Vivat, Huawei and many others. These are all companies that focus on – and, naturally, also struggle with the challenges of – sustainable development.

Neither Shell nor any other company participates in the development process of any of the curricula offered to students at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Nevertheless, it is of vital importance to any business school to maintain contacts with the private sector: indeed, such contacts are a key rationale of a business school’s existence.

Missed opportunity

In early 2015, EUR commissioned a study in response to Hüzeir’s call to reconsider EUR’s relations with the fossil fuel industry. The Executive Board’s decision was motivated by its belief in the importance of sustainable change, and its position that collaboration between knowledge institutes and the private sector plays a crucial role in realising this transition.

The University concludes that the authors of the report have diverted from their original brief: to map out the entire spectrum of EUR’s relations with companies in the fossil and non-fossil fuel industries throughout the entire university organisation. The University sees the authors’ failure to do so as a missed opportunity. The University could have learned a great deal from such an inventory.

In conclusion: RSM will be adopting the authors’ recommendation to establish a public register listing all the Faculty’s relationships with the private sector. RSM aims to be transparent in its dealings and has nothing to hide.

*Please note this reaction has been very slightly revised for the sake of completeness on 17 May – chapter 2.4.3 has been added

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China. www.rsm.nl

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at mschouten@rsm.nl.

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