Why did you travel to Vietnam on a trade mission on behalf of Rotterdam Business School (RBS)?
“I always thought this was something for politicians and companies. But I was told about this trip by the Centre of International Affairs (CoIA), who was invited for the trade mission. There was an explicit call for knowledge institutions to join the trade mission. One of the themes was supply chain management and logistics. We just started a new bachelor: International Business & Supply Chain Management. Besides that we also offer the master International Supply Chain Management. Rotterdam is also known as one of the most advanced ports in the world and we have a lot of Vietnamese students. Because of all of this, it was the perfect opportunity to join this trade mission.”
You have a lot of Vietnamese students?
“Yes, 17% of our students in the master programme are Vietnamese. I also have a student from Vietnam in my bachelor Supply Chain Management. That is quite special. In Vietnam, people are looking to Europe to acquire knowledge and Rotterdam with its port has a great appeal.”
What was the goal of the trade mission?
“Threefold. First, I joined the Centre of International Affairs at a fair to recruit new students. Second, we visited our current partner universities and potential new partners to strengthen our relationships. And last but not least, we talked to the Dutch companies that participated in the mission to discuss opportunities to expand our network for future internships and graduation assignments.”
What message did you get from the Vietnamese students?
“They love coming to the Netherlands but often depend on scholarships in Europe. We currently don't offer any, but it's good to know so we can look into that. They still love coming to Rotterdam. They hear a lot of good things about the Netherlands and about our university of applied sciences. We have a lot of graduates in Vietnam and they are promoting us through word of mouth. It's wonderful to see how loyal they are. Even though they have left us a year ago or longer, they were still keen to meet with us. We have a very good reputation there. That's very nice, especially because it's so far away. While other international students tend to stay in Europe, Vietnamese students usually return to their home country after graduating to work in the logistics sector.”
Why is that?
“There are many big challenges. Take the Mekong Delta for example. There are some similarities between this area and the Netherlands: lots of water, a large hinterland and only one deep sea port. Vietnam offers many opportunities in terms of infrastructure, digitalisation and other areas. It's a growing and increasingly stronger economy, that is creating more and more jobs. A growing number of Dutch companies are exploring the Vietnamese market and trying to establish themselves there. There is a huge demand for knowledge and expertise in logistics.”
On social media we saw a video in which you were being interviewed by Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte...
“He asked someone from logistics to explain what they were doing there. I took this opportunity to profile our university. I think I succeeded. It was short but very valuable.”
Will there be a follow-up to the trade mission to Vietnam?
“We are further strengthening our relationships with the universities, for example by reviewing opportunities for exchange programs. I will further intensify my network in the business sector and in May a Vietnamese group will visit Rotterdam Business School. We are very close to signing one or two ‘memorandums of understanding’ so I can already conclude that this has been a very successful mission.”