‘Knowledge exchange, regional agenda planning and a meat-free UU’
Utrecht University is working on a new Strategic Plan for the period 2016-2020. In order to build the strategy together, over the next few months students, staff, alumni and other stakeholders will enter into dialogue about a number of important university-wide issues. The kick-off was on Thursday 29 October with meetings about topics including ‘social impact’ and ‘sustainable business practices’.
‘It’s an exciting day,’ says university president Marjan Oudeman, who opens the session on social impact (in other words, valorisation) in the Bestuursgebouw (Administration Building). She is aware of the many great things that already take place at Utrecht University. The key question now is: how can we take knowledge from within the organisation and share it with society in a clear visible way?
The approximately forty employees present at the meeting, split into two groups to discuss ‘science communication & profiling’ and ‘the process & the required conditions’. A selection of the ideas brought up:
- ‘Social impact is the responsibility of the university as a whole, rather than of individual researchers.’
- ‘Valorisation isn’t a new idea, but visibility is getting increasingly important.’
- ‘Social impact must remain integrated in research and education. It’s important not to lose sight of the education part of this equation. Knowledge exchange between students and researchers/lecturers (and sometimes businesses as well) is already taking place.’
- ‘As a university, take a proactive role in setting the agenda in the region and at national governmental level. Have discussions about topics politicians like to avoid, and also broaden existing current discussions to include less commonly explored or popular angles.’
- ‘Focus on the scientific literacy of the next generations. This already starts in primary school.’
‘Sustainability issues are inextricably linked’
Meanwhile, at Janskerhof, Bert van de Zwaan is opens a different Strategic Plan session. About thirty students, lecturers and other employees from various faculties and departments have come to discuss ‘sustainable business practices’.
A tricky subject, as it turns out. Tricky because it touches upon a range of different issues: accommodation, mobility, waste, IT and energy. Can these issues even be viewed separately? Those present at the brainstorming session don’t think so. Take, for example, energy savings and accommodation: these issues are inextricably linked, just like many of the other topics mentioned. In addition, the room feels there’s a topic that’s still missing from the agenda: food. Food is added as a sixth topic on the spot.
‘A meat-free UU? That’s never going to happen’
What are the ambitions for each topic? What relationship is there between the different topics? Who and what are required to achieve the envisioned objectives? In some groups, a heated debate ensues. The added topic of ‘food’ especially incites passionate and varying reactions. ‘A meat-free UU? That’s never going to happen.’ ‘We should aim to achieve fifty percent energy savings by 2025.’ ‘A completely waste-free university.’ Quite ambitious goals.
Current and important issues for all of UU
‘It was a great meeting,’ says one participant about the social impact session. ‘But I feel like it’s not concrete enough yet.’ Another participant praises the fact that researchers were present at the table too. ‘The issues at hand are very current and important to everything that’s going on within the university.’ The moderators of the meetings now have the task of collating the wishes, ideas and ambitions that came up during the sessions, to use them for follow-up meetings.
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.