Ever since the 17th century, known as its Golden Age, the Netherlands succeeded remarkably well in keeping its leading position in world trade. Even today a considerable part of its welfare stems from trade. In this context trade should be seen as exchange of property rights. Many people in the Netherlands earn, directly or indirectly, money by conducting and enabling such transactions in trade.
On the one hand it is necessary to keep the costs of the transactions as low as possible: lower transaction costs lead to more trade. On the other hand it is obvious that the transactions should be profitable and create value. Globalisation and information technology bring about rapid changes in the way trade transactions take place. It creates new trade opportunities. Therefore it is necessary that one should be aware of these changes and opportunities, and know how to react and invest in knowledge on transactions. For instance, formal barriers to trade, such as transport costs and import restrictions, will gradually disappear. It makes informal trade barriers such as cultural differences, legal infrastructure, rules and regulations of local governments, red tape and especially trust between trading partners of more importance.
The more knowledge we have on these aspects, which is partly tacit knowledge, the better we can strengthen our position as traders. In the world of globalisation and global (out)sourcing it is vital for a trading nation to preserve the orchestrating function in the production, the demand and supply network. Major questions in this respect are: where and how can we buy ideas for new products and services, how do we obtain knowledge on making these products and providing these services, where do we find labour, and where and how can we continue and improve selling these products and services at the highest margin? Financing and risk management are an important part of that management function. It is this new role for the professional traders which is the focus of the Amsterdam Trade University.
The idea of founding the Amsterdam Trade University originates from a report of the Scientific Council for Government Policy in the Netherlands on “The Netherlands as a Trading Nation”. The council advises to establish an international scientific institute for education in the fields of legal, technical, financial, cultural, administrative and business knowledge related to trade transactions.
From that perspective the Amsterdam Trade University is an institute of highest international standards, which will acquire students from all over the world. Its excellence and highly levelled multidisciplinary setting will contribute to the establishment of international networks of traders and therefore will have large spill-over effects. Students and practitioners who follow courses at the Amsterdam Trade University will, by working together in small groups and by acquiring mutual understanding, build up trust relationships, which can be profitable in future trading contacts.
A major focus of the Amsterdam Trade University is to cope with cultural diversity. The ability to work together in such cultural diversity is one of the main assets of a good trader. Students at the Amsterdam Trade University will not only acquire technical skills but also communicative skills which are needed to reduce transaction costs specific to informal trade barriers.
The Amsterdam Trade University organises a variety of courses which comply as much as possible with developments in the local and global supply and demand networks, and with the individual needs of the students and of the sponsors of these students. In doing so the university makes ample use of existing courses and knowledge in institutes, public and private schools and individual suppliers of education and training around Amsterdam. The following types of courses are offered:
Short CEO training courses for developing skills in strategic plans and in exploring, analysing, recognising and adopting patterns in value creation in trade transactions.
Small one or two week training courses for specific trading techniques.
Summer courses for young executives in trading companies, service and production industries (in co-operation with “De Baak”: the training institute of the Netherlands employers organisation)
Master classes for managers in the trading, service and industry sectors, where case studies are discussed with expert practitioners (in co-operation with “De Baak)
Postgraduate courses on legal and financial aspects of trade, international payment systems, the use of information technology in trade and marketing (in co-operation with the VU-BIS programme of the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam).
Specific courses dealing with cultural aspects of trade and trust formation; at request the courses may focus on trade with specific countries or regions in the world.
Multidisciplinary three year bachelors programme (in co-operation with the Vrije Universiteit)
One year masters programme (in co-operation with the Vrije Universiteit)
Two year masters programme as part of the PhD programme of the Tinbergen Institute (the graduate school of the two Amsterdam Universities and Erasmus University, Rotterdam)
The education programme of the Amsterdam Trade University is designed for the following categories of “students”:
Managers of buying and sales divisions of companies, and owners of small and medium sized businesses who want to know more about trading in an international environment.
Personnel managers who are active in global (out)sourcing and are confronted with cultural diversity
In order to maintain high standards the Amsterdam Trade University will be selective in admitting students to the courses. An international network with fellow institutes and organisations will be established and grants will be acquired for talented students who are unable to finance the courses themselves. Companies abroad may obtain vouchers from their trading partners to let high potentials in their staff follow courses in Amsterdam.
Moreover, the Amsterdam Trade University puts much emphasis on networks of its students, and on keeping these networks of “Amsterdam trained traders” alive. Therefore it will set up an active alumni programme and keep track of addresses and other relevant information of former students.
The Amsterdam Trade University will also organise scientific and applied research in the field of trade. Specifically it focuses on productivity gains through the reduction of transaction costs and on value creation in trade transactions. The research programme will be executed by a consortium of researchers from various universities, government agencies and private companies. All researchers in the programme have an international orientation, are members of highly valued international research communities and publish in outstanding academic journals.
An important purpose of the programme is to foster interaction between academic researchers, experts from companies and civil servants engaged in policy preparation. Thus the programme complies with the wish for more knowledge transfers between academia and the public and private sectors.
Amsterdam Trade University is sponsored through a foundation called “Handelsland.nl” by a number of partners both in the private and in the public domain. Up to now major partners are the Vrije Universiteit (courses are organised at its campus), the Amsterdam City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, ING International and National Science Foundation.
Why is the ATU unique
Amsterdam is one of the major trading cities in the world and has a rich cultural tradition in that respect. Amsterdam Trade University is at the heart of that tradition and avails of all up to date expert knowledge on transaction costs and value creation in trade in the modern world. The courses and education programmes of Amsterdam Trade University are of high international standards and are backed by an extremely innovative academic research programme.
A scientific committee of international experts will closely monitor the quality of the education and research programmes. Students have the opportunity to become members of much valued international networks of traders. During their stay in Amsterdam students will taste the cultural diversity of the city and its rich tradition in arts, where special events will be organised. Moreover, students will become part of the multicultural and multilingual society which is characteristic for the Netherlands and which has a long tradition in international law (with The Hague as its capital) and in international finance. With the VOC in the 17th century as the first multinational firm financed by shareholders, the Netherlands can be regarded as the first “modern” economy.