‘Every voice is equally valuable; together we make the university’
‘UU 2025: better future’, is the theme of Utrecht University’s upcoming Strategic Plan. But what does that better future look like? And how do we get there? The Executive Board, deans and other governors obviously have their own ideas about the future of the university. Now, however, the Board especially wants to listen to the thoughts and wishes of other members of the university community. According to President of the Executive Board, Marjan Oudeman, “Joining in the discussion on the future of the university means having a say in your own future.”
But how can you have a say? Over the coming months, staff, students, alumni, stakeholders and other people involved, will have an opportunity to make their voices heard during an extensive series of debates and brainstorming sessions on topics such as education, research, human capital, the campus, and sustainable operation.
If debating is not exactly your cup of tea, you can also soon post your views on the Strategic Plan website or on one of the ‘columns’ to be installed at various university locations. Whether you are a technician, post-doc, secretariat or policy consultant, student, professor or HR advisor; every opinion is equally welcome and valuable, the President emphasises.
“View it from the perspective of your own future, as well as the organisation’s.”
Fun and exciting
When asked why it is so important that people contribute to the conversation on the Strategic Plan, Marjan Oudeman replies immediatly: “Because the plan concerns these people. Strategy may appear as a matter for ‘distant’ governors, but I truly hope that people will consider the plan from their own perspective and future. The university is not a building, it is a very diverse community. And it is that diversity that makes it such fun and so exciting.”
The President agrees that combining the many different ideas, opinions and wishes into a collective, concrete plan will be quite a challenge. But she is optimistic. “Of course, choices will have to be made. That is inevitable because we simply cannot do everything. We are nevertheless confident that, by providing clear communication and transparency about the choices made, we can produce a plan that everyone is happy with. A plan which reflects what people consider important and to which they themselves have contributed.”
Moving along with developments
Marjan Oudeman believes it’s essential to take the long view when considering the next four years. Hence the theme UU 2025: better future. “The world is changing increasingly rapidly and we must move along with it. We must continue to innovate, grow, develop. That applies to individuals as well as to organisations. Robotisation and digitisation are changing our way of life and our approach to certain things but they are also changing people’s work and study places.”
“Dealing with uncertainty is perhaps the most important purpose of a strategic plan.”
The President acknowledges that for most people change leads to uncertainty. “The key is to anticipate change so that it is less of a threat. Instead, it can be inviting, dynamic and positive”, Oudeman adds enthusiastically. “We believe that it is important that we teach our students to deal with the uncertainty they will undoubtedly face in their working life. Uncertainty is a given, the world is full of it. Dealing with that is perhaps the most important purpose of a strategic plan.”
It’s all very well drawing up objectives for what you think will happen over the coming years, but you must also be able to adjust them as circumstances dictate. Tenability and resilience are vital in this respect. Rather than ‘changing’, which sounds too sudden, I prefer to speak of ‘evolving’ and ‘moving along with developments’. That is not something you can enforce top down. We need to collectively create an environment in which we can let it happen.”
And if that moving along with developments is successful, the benefits will be considerable, Marjan Oudeman predicts. “Producing graduates the employment market is really looking for (also in ten years’ time), entering into meaningful international partnerships and making a contribution to society through socially relevant research with discernible impact. Then, in my opinion, we are doing something truly wonderful and will indeed be contributing to a ‘better future’.”
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.