By Trilce Navarrete

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On 21 September 2018, a group of cultural economists from all ages joined for the 15-year anniversary of the first MA Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship program to celebrate, to reflect on what is accomplished, and to look ahead.

The Master Program Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship is a one-year Master at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. It started with a cohort of 8 in the 2003-2004 academic year and has grown to welcome nearly 60 MA students in the 2018-2019 academic year. The MA program is currently ranked second (out of 46) in the world in ‘Cultural Management / Creative industries Management’. The program was the first international master program (in English) in the faculty of History, Culture and Communication under the umbrella of an appointed chair in Cultural Economics, Arjo Klamer, in the mid 1990s.

Ruth Towse joined the team in the late 1990s as Lecturer in Creative Industries, as first international staff, to help set up the program and to design economic courses applied to culture. She has advocated for ensuring the economics part of cultural economics remains as relevant as the cultural side of it.

Ruth’s Textbook of Cultural Economics as well as her Handbook of Cultural Economics, and the Handbook on the Digital Creative Economy, form part of the core readings of the BA and the MA coursework. Though she left the program in 2008, she continues to work on the copyright of the creative industries.

On the topic of art markets, students read Olav Velthuis, who also pleaded for a clear disciplinary identity, where economics stands are the core of the program. He believes this “provides a sense of direction [and] sharpens your perspective.”

The value of an alumni network lies in that it quickly connects every alumni and the work they are doing with new students entering the program. My experience with alumni, from my MA in Oregon, is that alumni from across all cohorts and students are able to connect with each other for professional guidance, support and mentorship. Academic programs benefit from the experience of their alumni to adjust to the new technologies, applications, and knowledge in the field – supporting the future cultural economist provide the relevant answers in the changing economy, even though the main questions may always remain.

I myself first joined the program the second year, along 11 other interested students, and followed classes by Ruth Towse and Hans Abbing (author of ‘Why are artists poor‘). A member of staff has been charged with cultivating alumni relationships and with supporting alumni engagement with the life of their alma mater. An important first task will be to update the contact information of the alumni database.

Elena Bird, graduate from 2006, identified the MA program as giving her the tools and confidence to define and to measure culture, allowing her to operationalize what she learned during her academic work into a policy environment in the City of Toronto where she currently works as Senior Policy Advisor of Economic Development and Culture.

The 15th anniversary of the MA Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship followed the graduation ceremony of 46 students proposing new answers to questions of value (‘competition between private museums and public museums in terms of funding, audience, and innovation’, ‘the art market of South Africa artists’), role of new technologies (‘the professionalization and commercialization of electronic music club culture’, ‘the effect of digital visual storytelling on visual artists’ popularity on Instagram’, ‘the incentives to join the Google Art Project’) and the development of markets (‘the impact of price strategies of concert venues’, ‘non-commercial online radio strategies’, ‘dual management in museums’), to name a few.


The MA in Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship provides a ‘unique approach [where] students acquire the knowledge and skills to identify and overcome the constant challenges faced by the cultural and creative sectors’ (program website)

  • It helps students to use both a macro and a micro approach. The first, allows to identify the features of the context where a specific cultural organisation operates. The second to recognise the best tools and activities to undertake.
  • The cultural sector is increasingly addressed in terms of financial and economic considerations. Our students will train to argue convincingly in this framework and to challenge preconceived ideas.
  • The cultural sector reveals fundamental challenges in mainstream economics, and we address alternative approaches.
  • Careful application of economic theory and empirical research are powerful tools for making reasonable predictions about further developments in the context of digitization and changes in public policy.
  • Our students learn about the challenges and opportunities that cultural entrepreneurs face.

The MA Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship program is organised as follows:

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Staff involved in the MA Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship include Arjo Klamer, Professor of the Economics of Art and Culture, Filip Vermeylen, Professor in Global Art Markets, Erwin Dekker, Assistant Professor and Postdoctoral researcher,  Christian Handke, Assistant Professor specialist in the music market, Mariangela Lavanga, Assistant Professor coordinator of the MA program, Anna Mignosa, Lecturer specialist in heritage, Lenia Carvalho Marques, Assistant Professor specialist in creative cities, and myself, Trilce Navarrete, Lecturer specialist in digital heritage (with focus on museums). You can find more information on the program though this link.

About the author:

Trilce Navarrete is lecturer at the Cultural Economics and Entrepreneurship Program at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.

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