Edwin van Rest

A connecting contribution to international education. Born out of frustration.

He is the CEO of a platform made up of multiple websites. Every one of them fulfills a huge need. He will soon be a father of 2. And in his own words, Edwin van Rest is: “A very lucky guy. Because I was able to realize my boyhood dream.” In 2007 he started the Studyportals platform together with 2 alumni from TU/e and KTH. There, students will find everything they need to find the education of their dreams. All over the world. It is a platform for universities to present themselves and for students to make an informed choice. Studyportals was born out of frustration. Edwin: “There was far too little information about international studies. While the exchange of knowledge and students is such an enrichment for the world.”

Education to prevent war

Edwin describes an inspiring example of the importance of that exchange. “When we first started, we attended a lecture in Vancouver. A senior American official spoke there. He talked about Obama's 100,000 Strong programs; a plan to allow 100,000 Chinese to study in the US and vice versa. The biggest surprise was that this was not an educational program. It is primarily intended to peacefully prevent the third world war. The idea was 'If countries understand each other, there is less chance of war'. That clarified for me the impact of international education on the enrichment of the individual. I saw even better what we can achieve with a more open world with more equal opportunities. ”

Exchange changes your view of people

He also experienced that exchange and interaction with other cultures give you a more nuanced and richer worldview. In Japan, I was in a room with a German boy. And we secretly still had that image of the Japanese that they were not such nice people. But they are just wonderful people. But you only discover that when you are there and until then you often think in prejudices.

Back to the beginning

Edwin chose to study Industrial Engineering and Management Science because it involved a compulsory international trimester. “And that international appeal appealed to me,” he says, “But it was a huge hassle to arrange it. It took me a year and a half. I had to do it through. Someone knew someone who knew how to contact a university in Japan.” Thanks to the help and especially Prof. Bert Meijer of TU/e ​​succeeded. And it was a fantastic time. That's where I discovered my purpose. When I came back and shared my experiences with my friends, they were disappointed that they didn't know the options to study abroad. Together with my co-founders, I decided to turn that frustration into action. And so we started Studyportals.

Bologna Process

Shortly after it was founded, I worked for the international office of the TU/e. I provided information and provided information to people and organizations. I then helped with the consequences of the Bologna Process, the harmonization of the education system in the EU. A political process in which matters such as the level of tuition fees for non-European students and the intake in the master's process were discussed. The introduction of the Bachelor and Master system gave Studyportals an enormous boost. Now, as a student, you could choose your bachelor's and master's degrees. During that period I learned how important it is for universities to have a broad, diverse, and qualitative intake of students.

Big Hairy Audacious Goal

At the very beginning, the team formulated the first BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal). “We wanted to send more students abroad than there are soldiers abroad. And it worked. The UN has currently deployed 110,000 soldiers. We have enabled 50 million users this year and already enabled the international study of more than 600,000 people. We do more and more good with the exchange of knowledge, people, and culture than others with weapons. I think that's a great idea.” 20-25% of international students now choose via one of the Studyportals portals. “That is not only a nice thought but also a prospect of a bright future. We just want to provide more information. And with all the data we collect, we are becoming interested in more and more universities and students. Our formula has been proven successful. We can grow much further.”

Amazon and seven locks

It sometimes surprises him that the information he now helps to find its way to all parties involved has only been made available for such a relatively short time. “Weird actually. Years ago I could go to booking.com for travel and on Bol.com you could quickly order everything you needed. But there was nothing for education, about the most important subject in the world.” And that while education is the second largest industry in the world. Bigger than energy, of course. The only market above it is health. If we become a significant player in education, we can take on a role as Amazon has. We are now the market leader, but still a relatively small player. We can grow very fast, but we don't want that. Because there is also a risk that we then run in seven locks at the same time. That is why we opt for controlled growth. Quality over quantity.”

Access to information

Meanwhile, the partners have set themselves a new goal. And where they used to bet on hundreds of thousands, now everything revolves around the number 0. “We want a future in which no one misses an educational opportunity due to a lack of information. There are currently about 230 million people studying at all universities in the world. It is expected that in 2030 there will be about 350 million. But on the other hand, there are 1 billion people who have the need but have not been given the chance, for such education. Partly because they don't have access to the right information. We can't help them all. Because some have no money or access to the right infrastructure. But at least we can remove all obstacles around the information. We want to make education easier to access. There are so many opportunities, grants, and innovative programs that people don't see. Because the authorities don't reach them, for example. And many young people don't know the stories of people like them who did make it happen. We want to achieve this ambitious goal in 10 years.

Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations has set itself 17 sustainable goals. Quality education is number 4 on that list. But according to Edwin, education is the key to success for at least half of the goals. He explains: “Problems such as discrimination, inequality, and poverty are mainly combated with knowledge and training. You can try to fight poverty with money, but it is better to train people and teach them to develop a sustainable source of income. This is also better for their self-esteem and personal happiness. It's really hard to find anything that has more value than education.

Broad education and side activities

What he studied and what he is doing now seem to be two different worlds. But looks are deceiving. His Industrial Engineering and Management Science degree prepared him well for his current job. “Technology plays a huge role in what we do. And my education had a big technical component. It was a broad program that also included elements such as organization, management, and finance. In addition, I also did a lot in addition to the training. I was on the board of the study association for international activities and I did two internships at the Olympic Games. At Atos Origin. There I was jointly responsible for all kinds of systems. From accreditation of visitors to registering the results. That was a fantastic time.”

Donate to the Fund

Edwin also donated to the Heroes for Heroes campaign. And he has several reasons for that. To start with, he knows that his contribution at TU/e ​​is in good hands. “I'm in the alumni society. I am involved in what the Fund does. I see the big plans and I know that the money will be well spent.”

Gratitude also plays a role. “I also want to show my appreciation for what I have learned and received from TU/e. We often don't realize it in the Netherlands, but I also lived in Boston and there it became clear once again that for next to nothing I had made an enormously defining contribution to my life.”

Alumni Donations

Edwin also believes in the model in which alumni donate to the alma mater. “Of course you cannot finance a university completely with that, but you can certainly finance part of it. This is how you encourage the universities to be relevant to their alumni. In America, they have expanded that model much further. Much more has been made possible by donors and sponsors. Even on the bedroom doors hangs the name of the donor who may have made them. And you can even gain access to the inner circle of celebrities at gala dinners by donating heavily. That might be going a bit far for the Netherlands. The alternatives here are financing by companies, such as through contract research, where you make clear agreements about what you can expect from each other. In itself fine, but there are risks involved. Because you are and will remain dependent on that one company. This also applies to subsidies from the government. You have some certainty, but for real progress, you often need more time. You don't have that problem with stable funding partly through alumni. That gives stability and independence.

The importance of talent development

With donations from companies, you give TU/e ​​more opportunities to give talent space next to the curriculum, says Edwin. “In my adventure in Japan, the fund helped me get it done, for example. My idea for Studyportals was born during that journey. That has had almost as much impact as all my study hours put together.

 As a region, we must ensure that we have a strong university here. Out of idealism and out of realism. Because a good university like TU/e ​​also ensures that we have the right ones here people for all those businesses that the region is known for.