An innovative learning journey

TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | PHOTOS © VLERICK BUSINESS SCHOOL

The world of business is dynamic and ever-changing. If you snooze, you might just miss the next big innovation or tendency. Lifelong learning is, therefore, the only way to prevent yourself from lagging behind. At Vlerick, the best business school in the Benelux, insight and theory present themselves in a most practical and innovative way.

Since its foundation in 1953, Vlerick Business School has grown to become one of Europe’s finest business schools. Its initial goal was to relaunch the Belgian economy after the Second World War and to stimulate entrepreneurship and ambition. “This remains our greatest aim to date,” says Marion Debruyne, dean of the institute. “We have grown and reinvented ourselves a lot throughout the years, yet we still aim to ignite this ‘go-getting attitude’ among our students.” Their geographical playing field, however, has increased significantly over recent decades. The school was founded under the wings of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven and the Universiteit Gent, the two most prestigious Belgian universities. Today, Vlerick has a big campus in Brussels, too, as well as three collaborations abroad. “We have alliances in New Delhi (India), Cape Town (South Africa) and Beijing (China). There, as well as here in Belgium, we provide top-level education and research with a strong focus on innovation and digital transformation.”

Online MBAs

Vlerick is best known for its Masters and MBAs. Its five Masters programmes focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, international management and strategy, financial management, general management and marketing management. “These are pre-experience programmes. You can enrol for them as soon as you graduate. For our MBAs, however, we ask for three years of experience in the field before you can start. We also offer executive MBAs. These programmes contain the same material as a regular MBA but are scheduled on the weekends only, to allow our students to keep working full-time as well. This is a beneficial system since they can immediately practice what they learn.”

If that does not fit in your booked-up calendar, you can opt for Vlerick’s online programme instead. From this year on, you can follow an MBA programme from your laptop at home. “Our goal is to provide as many entrepreneurs and business people as possible with the material they need to reach the top. Our online presence is just the next step in this direction. We have designed an online learning experience that combines synchronous learning (fixed conference calls with your lecturer and fellow students for explanations and discussions) with asynchronous learning (self-study of the provided material, at your own pace and time). This way, we offer a flexible programme without compromising on its quality or its dynamic interaction.”

Live, Learn, Leap

Rather than offering a linear studying experience, Vlerick wants to take its students on a so-called ‘learning journey’. “We look at education in the same way as preparing for a holiday,” says Debruyne, explaining the concept. “First you prepare for your trip by looking up information, exploring what is waiting for you and dreaming about what you will discover. Next, you have the interactive and exciting phase of studying and gaining knowledge. At most schools, this is where the process stops. We, on the other hand, add a third chapter: the ripple effect. “Our mission has only succeeded if we see our alumni turn their newly gained wisdom into action.” Vlerick people are enterprising leaders, who thrive in a fast-changing world.” Flying the flag ‘Live, Learn, Leap’, Vlerick’s journeys surpass the solely academic aspect of education and become genuine preparation for a blossoming career.

That does not mean that theory is less important at Vlerick. On the contrary, it shapes the foundation of its practical approach. “One of my favourite quotes is: ‘There is nothing as practical as a good theory’. An academic approach gives you a frame of reference which you can apply in the field, where everything is a bit foggier and less ideal. Knowing how to handle a situation in perfect circumstances is the ideal way to learn how to handle crises and solve problems. Most of our professors’ feet are rooted in the field, yet, they have their head in academics. Actually, those two worlds are not even as distant as you would first think.”

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