The Class of 2018 is the first cohort to graduate from the Cologne-Rotterdam Executive MBA

The Cologne-Rotterdam Executive MBA’s Class of 2018 is the first cohort from this international programme to celebrate its graduation. Keynote speaker Dr Carsten Pillath from the Council of the European Union, admitted feeling great respect for the graduates and said he’s “a little jealous of the class’ shared experience of industry sectors and cultures.” The ceremony was officiated by the deans of both Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and the Executive School of the University of Cologne (UoC). The graduation ceremony took place at the University of Cologne on 13 October 2018.

This 24-month, part-time MBA is a double degree programme offered by UoC and RSM, and is designed for executives who want the convenience of a world-class MBA in Germany. The English-taught programme is based on RSM’s Executive MBA.

Of the international group, 16 out of 20 attended the graduation ceremony, along with an 80-member audience. The 20 graduates have an average age of 33, and have an average work experience of eight years. Thirty per cent of the class are women. Forty per cent of the Class of 2018 is international. In addition to the German graduates, the class represents French, Spanish, Swiss, Dutch, American, South African, Indian and Pakistani professionals.

Sharing leadership experiences

Keynote speaker Dr Carsten Pillath is the director-general in the General Secretariat Economic Affairs and Competitiveness of the Council of the European Union. He addressed the students by asking them a question about their Personal Leadership Development programme and if they found the answer to the fundamental question ‘Why should anyone be led by you?’

Dr Pillath said he feels great respect for the graduates but also ‘a tiny element of jealousy’. He explained that as a truly international group of members, the professionals have experience across various industry sectors and cultures which may have shaped their view on management and leadership areas.

Dr Pillath is an alumnus of the University of Cologne and an advisor board member of its Management, Economics and Social Sciences (WiSo) faculty. He described how he approached management and leadership, and said he’s aware of the vast leadership theory in different areas of economic research. He concluded with advice to the graduates about improving management, enhancing their leadership skills and developing their own personal brand.

Addressing societal issues

The deans of each university also addressed the students. RSM’s Dean, Prof. Steef van de Velde, spoke about the responsibility of being a business professional in today’s society. “There are various different political issues in our society nowadays,” he said. “It’s now more important than ever before to be aware of the importance of your values and own principles in order to become a force for positive change in the world.”

Prof. Ulrich Thonemann, managing director of the Executive School of UoC, said how proud he is about the achievements of the first Cologne-Rotterdam EMBA cohort. He underlined the role taken now by each of the graduates, representing the UoC and RSM as alumni and carrying responsibility in business as well as in the civil society.”

Prof. Hernàn Bruno won the honorific Teaching Award for his strategic marketing management class. His course was elected by the students as ‘best course of the programme, and Prof. Bruno was considered as the best lecturer demonstrating ‘profound expertise’, ‘perfect time management’ and ‘great responsivity’.

The graduation day concluded with a festive dinner and reception at PE303 am Rhein in Cologne. All graduates are now part of the international alumni networks of both universities.

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.

The Business School of University of Cologne, founded in 2015, is based in the Faculty of Management, Economics and Social Sciences at the University of Cologne. With around 10,000 students and a large number of professors, the Faculty is one of Europe’s largest and most prestigious of its kind. The Business School of the University of Cologne was founded in 2015 and offers practice-oriented management and leadership training for executives. The business school offers an Executive MBA taught through English in addition to other certificates and customised programmes designed specifically for companies. It has a cooperation with national and international partners and offers its innovative programmes to both young professionals and international top executives.

For more information on this release, please contact Marianne Schouten, communications manager for RSM, via +31 10 408 2877 or; or Aurélie Civel, Executive School of UoC, via +49 221 470 7970 or

Alumni , Companies , Executive education , Homepage , In the spotlight , International , Newsroom , MBA , China