Introducing the First European Doctoral training including an MBA  

The cherry on top of a model doctoral program 

Starting this September, fifteen candidates of the Wetsus doctoral program will be following an Action Learning MBA with a Major in Water Technology. The already one-of-a-kind PhD training, devoted to the connection between university and industry, will become more relevant to careers outside of academia thanks to the most recent MSCA (Marie Curie Skłodowska Action) COFUND under the project EMPOWER, thanks to the collaboration with Business School Netherlands (BSN). 

BSN will dedicate tailor-made water tech lessons using the action learning approach, with real-life cases, challenges, and assignments. Dr M. Cristina Gagliano, EMPOWER coordinator: “The MBA will enable PhD students to grow. To be ready for the market. To allow them to speak the same language as industry professionals.” It will entail further skill enhancement that extends the young doctors’ personal development and career opportunities. With this extension, Wetsus hopes to be an example to other research institutes worldwide. 

Global Impact 

World-leading action learning institute BSN is happy to bring along her expertise. “We train management professionals by putting knowledge into practice in a safe environment,” says BSN Dean Toine van den Heuvel. “It is a form of learning with real-life cases that can make a change from the beginning on. And it really connects at a human level.” 

“We are extremely excited to cooperate with our unique MBA degree to achieve these sustainable development goals, specifically SDG 6. We can have a huge impact on the world as a whole, together. We can channel our students to be great leaders, who are responsible, change-orientated, decision-makers and results-driven that can operate at the level of policy, process, strategy, and management like no other institute does,” BSN international director Juanita Bouwer adds. “By cooperating with relevant companies, our students not only learn themselves, but more than return their investment. For example, as part of the MBA program, one student was tasked to improve the occupation rate of a great hotel in the area. It had an average occupancy of 35% at the start, but once being overviewed by our student, it rapidly rose to 95.” 

Setting an example 

For the PhD candidates, the MBA courses will be stretched over three years, giving them in total 4.5 years to complete their whole path, including the PhD degree. Leaving the first year to get them to start with the research and not make the addition a burden. Lessons will be conducted in Leeuwarden with BSN teachers. Juanita Bouwer: “The students will work together in relevant teams, each learning the different roles one can pursue in industry. They will develop their own cases based on their research to show what they can do. It will be exciting to see what contribution they will bring to the sustainable development goals in their local area and globally.” 

And the inclusion of an MBA within the PhD training itself could well be viewed as an experimental study of its own. Dr. Gagliano: “To our knowledge, this is the first time such an MBA is implemented into a PhD degree in Europe. That makes it a bit of a lab on its own. We need to see whether this is feasible on a personal level. Though we are convinced that this will become a model to follow.” And together with the already exceptional PhD program, it should be shared.