The Warocqué School: The Early Years

On 16th March 1899, following the suggestion of Mr. Henri Dutrieux, chief engineer and director of the State Railway Department, a group of industrialists decided to set up the Institut Commercial des Industriels du Hainaut in Mons.

Mr. Raoul Warocqué, the great industrial philanthropist of Mariemont, largely satisfied all the basic needs of this new school, which was temporarily set up in a luxurious private hotel. Almost immediately, plans were drawn up for a vast reconstruction of the school, which was designed according to the latest developments of the time.

In October 1899, a few months after the founders’ initial meeting, the first classes were delivered to a lecture theatre filled with 52 students.

In 1913, the number of students had risen to 180. Early on, the Institute had the public on side. People put their trust in it from the very beginning, while the reputation and esteem of the founding industrialists enabled them to recruit, from the very first day, a group of specialist teachers, as well educated as they were devoted.

A glance at the early years of the Institute makes us realise how quickly its popularity grew.

On 22nd November 1902, Mr. Gustave Francotte, Ministre de l’Industrie et du Travail (Minister of Industry and Labour), attended several lessons and examined the Institute’s collections.

On 16th March 1903, on the wish of Mr. Raoul Warocqué, a special meeting of the Comité de patronage et de la Commission administrative took place at the Institute. The purpose of the meeting was to celebrate the Institute’s fourth anniversary, and to award a gold medal commemorating this event to Mr. Henri Dutrieux, founder of the Institute and Chairman of its Administrative Commission.

The 7th August 1903 saw the Institute’s first graduation of commercial engineers. There were twenty-six of them, and within a few weeks, all were employed by various Belgian or foreign firms, clearly showing the real need for the Institute.

On 26th March 1904, Mr. Yves Guyot, former Ministre des Travaux publics (Minister of Public Works) in France, honoured the Institute with a visit.

In July and August 1904, the Chinese Government and the Society for the Study of Railways in China entrusted the Institute with the education of twenty young Chinese students, who had studied in China and who were preparing to study mines, bridges and railways in Europe .

On 14th September 1904, His Excellency Yang Tsao Yum, Minister Plenipotentiary of His Majesty the Emperor of China, visited the Institute to meet with their Administrative Commission and the Chinese Section active at the time. He also visited all of the Institute’s facilities.

The Institute’s Purpose: Differentiation

The aims of the new Institution differ quite significantly from those of its predecessors in the field of business education. It is, above all, a practical training school, applying business theory to industrial expansion. Its aim is to train commercial agents able to represent Belgian industry in Belgium and abroad.

It was created for the Institute’s students to enhance their interest in the maintenance and development of industrial exports. Its founders also recognised the need to provide Belgian industrial companies abroad with capable agents.

Since its creation, the results obtained faithfully fulfilled Henri Dutrieux’s wishes. Approximately 40% of the graduates of the Institute’s first six years were expatriated in Europe (e.g. France, Spain, Germany, Poland and Russia) and all over the world (e.g. Abyssinia, Congo, Egypt, Siam, Japan and China), demonstrating the ideals of democracy, technical expertise and Belgian trade.

During the First World War, Raoul Warocqué came to realise that it was impossible for a group of private industrialists to continue running the institution. In his will, he left the building, as well as one million francs, to the Province of Hainaut, so that the Institute’s initial purpose, as well as that of the building, would continue.

The establishment of the laws and royal decrees of 1933 and 1934 were an important milestone in the history of the Warocqué Institute. The studies organised there were placed on an equal footing with those of other academic institutions, with regards to the conditions of admission, the duration of studies, the identity of the subjects taught, and the degrees awarded.

Between its creation and the Second World War, the Institute awarded degrees to 1610 people.

In 1962, during a conference held by the Société des Sciences, des Arts et des Lettres du Hainaut, several personalities, including the Governor Emile Cornez and the Rector Max Dreschel, defended the idea of creating a university in Hainaut. Despite strong opposition from existing universities, in 1965, a bill was passed to expand the number of universities, consequently leading to the creation of the Centre universitaire de l’Etat in Mons, comprising:

  • The Faculty of Science (physics and chemistry)
  • The former Faculty of Applied Economics (Warocqué Faculty)
  • The Higher Institute of Pedagogy
  • The School of International Interpreters (EII)

A second bill to expand the number of universities was passed in 1971, leading to the creation of the State University of Mons. It was from this structure that the University of Mons-Hainaut (UMH) was established following the law of 1989 on community education and that of 1994 on the conferring of academic degrees. In 2009, the fusion with the Faculty Engineering of Mons (FPMs) led to the creation of the current University of Mons (UMONS).

Today, called the Warocqué School of Business and Economics (FWEG), in 1899, given the uncertainties associated with the great conflicts of the 20th century, the Institution produced 113 classes of engineers, masters and doctors, totalling close to 10,000 graduates. It currently organises three undergraduate degree courses: a Bachelor’s in Management, a Bachelor’s in Economics and Management, and a Bachelor’s in Business Engineering. The same degree programmes, with the support of the same teachers, are organised on the Charleroi campus. Three different two-year Master’s, with six specialist or teaching focuses, are organised during the day in Mons and in the evening and at weekends in Charleroi. There is also a one-year Master’s for the continued education of people who already have a Master’s degree. In recent years, the FWEG has also organised a two-year Master’s programme with a specialist focus on Management and Strategy on the Charleroi campus. The FWEG is also involved in doctoral programmes and awards PhDs in Economics and Management and in Economic and Social Policy.