‘Make better use of each other; we have so much brainpower at our disposal’
Gathering ideas, ideas and more ideas. During the past weeks, at various locations and in mixed compositions, a debate has been going on about what Utrecht University should look like in 2025. A wide range of ideas and opinions have already been looked at and are carefully taken into account in the process of putting together a new Strategic Plan.
‘Putting people together results in so much strength and energy’, university president Marjan Oudeman enthuses, reflecting on the meetings held so far. ‘Strength and energy’ also characterise the meeting held on 11 and 12 November, during which ideas about a range of topics were gathered from, among others, deans, student and faculty members of the University Council, department chairs, student assessors, Distinguished Professors of Utrecht University, Teaching Fellows and those who are especially involved in the Strategic Themes and Focus Areas. ‘Today the intention is not to draw conclusions,’ day chair Henk Kummeling emphasises. ‘We’re still in the “gathering stage”. In a little while, we will look at the common threads that emerge from all the debate sessions.’
Possible future scenarios
Deans of the various faculties each sit down at tables where, on two different occasions, they receive groups of participants. What possible future scenarios do those present envision for Utrecht University? At some tables there is consensus, while in other groups people disagree strongly. ‘It’s so refreshing to exchange ideas with colleagues from different disciplines,’ several people remark. Someone with prior experience at another university points out: ‘don’t take the cooperative, open atmosphere that characterises these meetings for granted, it isn’t the same everywhere,’.
In a three-minute ‘pitch’ the deans then present the ideas gathered at their table to the rest of the room. A number of topics keep coming back: ‘diversity’, ‘community’, ‘internationalisation’, ‘Human Resources’ and ‘making optimum use of the breadth of UU’. A selection of the ideas, opinions, questions, wishes and points of attention brought up:
Make optimum use of breadth
- ‘We know too little about each other within the university. Make the most of the breadth we have and seek contact with each other more.’
- ‘We have so much brainpower at our disposal. Take people out of their regular environments and give them the opportunity to participate in discussions going on elsewhere.’
- ‘Interdisciplinary research brings innovation.’
- ‘Make education more demand-driven, for example based on concrete, current issues, and take a multidisciplinary approach to these issues.’
- ‘Learn how to deal with cultural differences and with people bringing different perspectives to the table.’
- ‘Ensure the university has a diverse population; this will also help to attract top talent from abroad.’
- ‘More focus on working together in differentiated teams in which people’s skills complement each other, rather than expecting everyone to be capable of everything.’
- ‘You can attract and retain talent by providing top-quality education and research, but let’s not forget about the role of the surroundings. Make sure the campus becomes more of a place where people meet and feel at home.’
- ‘Involve businesses. How about creating conference facilities at Utrecht Science Park? Restaurants? Hotels?’
- ‘Make it easier for the university to reach out to society by seeking more links with the local community, as a campus.’
- ‘The city centre is a place where the university comes to the city. Utrecht Science Park can become a place where the city comes to the university.’
- ‘We’re behind where internationalisation is concerned. Keep explaining why it’s necessary to look beyond the Dutch horizon.’
- ‘Internationalisation shouldn’t be imposed, but facilitated by: providing housing, having a good command of English, making sure people feel at home here, etc.’
- ‘Where the hell is Utrecht? To what extent is Utrecht on the map internationally?’
- ‘What’s the sense in looking beyond our borders if we can’t even manage to establish a dialogue with the people in the Kanaleneiland neighbourhood, for example? Also seek to make links with people closer to home.’
- ‘Who do you hire and why?’
- ‘Create better opportunities for careers in education. Ensure there is a clearer link between research and education.’
- ‘We’re constantly holding researchers up to a yardstick. A shift from monitoring to more appreciation and trust is required.’
- ‘Dare to take risks. It’s okay to fall flat on your face every once in a while.’
Join in the discussion!
From October to December, you are more than welcome to share your thoughts about the future of Utrecht University. During special sessions staff, students, alumni and partners of the University can discuss themes which they believe are important. You will be able to share your views on education and research, but also on the question of how the University could become even more sustainable and what role the campuses could play in creating an inspiring working and living environment.
Want to know more?
Read more about how the Strategic Plan is created and how you can contribute.