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A group of top European universities and business schools has created the European Common Online Learning (ECOL) network in response to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on education. Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of the eight highly ranked business schools in the ECOL network that will use the recent acceleration of expertise in remote teaching and learning to offer common online electives. The ECOL network will enhance students’ learning experiences using new technologies that enable them to join classes at other institutions, while keeping the added value of a range of educational approaches from the institutions involved.

The agreement was signed by the eight business schools on Wednesday, 26 May. Partners in the network represent the best in their countries; all of them belong to the Partnership in International Management (PIM) and CEMS global alliance and have a wide history of institutional co-operation through double degrees, joint degrees, joint projects, and a large pool of undergraduate students exchanged over decades.

Dean of RSM, Prof. Ansgar Richter said: “For RSM, joining the ECOL network is in harmony with our strategy for actively showing our contribution not only to the Netherlands, but also to Europe, and to the world. A strong network with other universities offers us unique opportunities for offering education that comes from the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration that may be needed to solve the challenges the world faces.

“This is a great example of how to offer the kind of transformative education that can develop responsible leaders for the sustainable, digital economy. The range of courses that the participating schools are making available to each other’s students is just remarkable – they include Finance for Positive Change, Global Water Governance, International Business in the Era of Disruptions, to mention just a few examples. These are exactly the kinds of things that I would like to see in our curriculums.”

In addition to RSM, other signatories were: Aalto University School of Business, Finland; Bocconi University, Italy; Copenhagen Business School, Denmark; Esade Business School, Spain; HEC Paris Business School, France; University of St. Gallen, Switzerland; and WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria.

Building a common online curriculum

The new ECOL network shows a united European approach to the new learning models and approaches that have been developed during the past year and a half, in which technology is not seen as a substitute for campus-based learning, but as a technical enhancement of it.

Working together, the eight business schools will foster better mobility and inclusion as they create networks of learning that no longer require students to travel to be able to experience international business education. Students will be able to take courses from other universities; universities will be able to broaden the opportunities for learning using the expertise and specialisms from others in the network. The ability to attract academics and students in this way generates a bigger critical mass that will enable the eight business schools in the collaboration to contribute to global issues on a greater level.

Online credited elective courses

Prof. Ansgar Richter said: "Bachelor education offers significant opportunities in particular for innovation and digitalisation for a number of reasons – the length of the programme, the strength in the number of students, the greater accessibility of these programmes and the openness of younger students to the kind of materials involved here in this initiative."

The ECOL network will operate in addition to each university’s international mobility programmes (as soon as they can resume normal operations). Bachelor students at institutions in the network will be able to take at least one credited online elective from another top European institution.

Contributing to the European education system

Universities in the ECOL network jointly made an official statement about the reasons for its formation: "Before the Covid-19 outbreak, digitalisation was already a trend transforming higher education. But the pandemic accelerated this disruption and the higher education sector – universities in general and mobility programmes in particular – has been deeply affected. In this context, and with the aim of driving innovation and enhancing the students’ remote learning experience with new technologies, while keeping the added value of different educational approaches, a group of top European universities and business schools has decided to launch the European Common Online Learning network. This initiative seeks to contribute to the European education system, underscoring the importance of building a common online curriculum that can be expanded and developed over time."

During the online opening of the ECOL initiative, representatives from the eight European institutions discussed what had been discovered and learned during the pandemic crisis, the role of higher education in promoting the new EU principles and its contribution to achieving the goals of innovation, digitalisation, sustainability and inclusion, as well as the benefits of integrating European curricular elements.

Fostering innovation through a common online learning offer

The ECOL network will offer online credited elective courses that will co-exist with each university’s current academic offer for bachelor students. These courses are especially designed for online teaching and synchronous delivery. They will be innovative in their content and pedagogical approach, and will include lectures, seminar discussions and team projects, aiming to develop the students’ teamwork competencies and cross-cultural perspectives to develop interpersonal and intercultural skills, in addition to technical skills.

More information

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked 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.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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