15 November 2016

Conlusies after discussion meetings

Strategic Plan: "Coffee machines are extremely important."

The Faculty Strategic Plan for the period 2017-2021 should be complete by the spring of 2017. In early October, staff and students of the Faculty of Science met in De Vagant and the Koningsberger building to discuss issues that will play important roles in the new plan. But what will be done with that input, and what can we expect over the next few months?

After a video message from Marjan Oudeman and a brief introduction by Dean Gerrit van Meer, more than 120 people participated in one of the eight discussion tables held on 4 and 6 October. In four 20-minute rounds, the groups talked about the issues over which the Science2021 work groups (consisting of academic staff, support staff and students) will collect input from the rest of the faculty. These issues were: Involvement and commitment, Internationalization and diversity, Better connections between teachers and students, Collaboration on social issues, Visibly in society, Reduction of administrative burden, Appreciation for social impact and More use of the outside world.

Anje Bakker, Science2021 project leader, was encouraged by the results of the meetings: “It was good to see the diverse group of people who attended both of the sessions. The discussion groups included researchers and lecturers, as well as students and support personnel. Everyone provided input based on their own experience and field of expertise.”

Coffee machines are important

The unanimity at the ‘Involvement and Commitment’ table discussing community forming and involvement was remarkable. Every discussion round showed that employees consider it vital for them to meet their students and one another more frequently, and that the faculty should facilitate that. Their opinion was eloquently formulated by Lukas Kapitein, University Lecturer at the Biology Department and member of the Research work group: “It was great to see how almost everyone valued the connections between members of the staff, and actively contributed ideas on the overarching issues and the possibilities for greater cooperation.”

One common comment from the work group was about the importance of Coffee machines. “That’s only logical”, says Anje. “Because that’s where people come together to talk. It creates cooperation and cohesion.”

Meeting spaces and involvement

An informal poll in the September issue of Bupdated showed that employees feel closer to their own group, department or study programme than to the faculty as a whole.  “That is an important insight, which offers the faculty opportunities for improvement”, Anje explains. “In education, more involvement between lecturers and students can lead to improved education and a more pleasant learning climate. In research, multidisciplinarity is almost a requirement these days, especially when it involves major social problems. And to achieve that, it’s important that you have enough spaces where you can come together and talk to one another.”

A good example of such a meeting space is the library of the Mathematics Institute in the Freudenthal building. All of the coffee machines in the department have been moved to the library, so that students and lecturers can come together in one place. A simple, but effective action that could work just as well for other groups. “In research, it sometimes helps to work in the vicinity with other people,” Anje adds, “because it can lead to cross-pollination and new contacts.”

Dizzying

The Strategic Plan also includes subjects that many employees may be unfamiliar with, because they mainly affect the administrative and policy levels of the organisation. For example, Allard Mosk, Professor at Physics & Astronomy and member of the Research work group, stated that the university - and therefore the faculty as well - will have to focus on socially relevant issues over the next few years. However, for many in attendance it was unclear how that would be put into effect. “Some of the people at the table became dizzy from all of the strategic themes, focus areas, departments, institutes, centres and hubs”, Mosk said. “One student asked an excellent question: shouldn’t those issues also be dealt with in education as well?”

According to Anje, that is why it is important for everyone to know what the plan entails in general. “The Strategic Plan is the foundation for everyone’s work. The plan explains where we want to go as a faculty, as well as our research and education profiles. The quality of education and research is naturally the main priority, but those working in support functions must also know how their work fits into the bigger picture. That is where the Strategic Plan can help. It makes it easier to understand the choices made within your department.”

What happens next?

The work groups will use the input collected during the discussion sessions on 4 and 6 October to draw up a recommendation for the faculty board. They will also consider the input from discussions with the Schools, the research institutes, the focus areas and strategic themes, research and education inspections and the education retreats. All of this information will be combined into four advisory documents for the faculty board, which will then use the advice to draft the new Strategic Plan. The preliminary drafts of the plan will be discussed in various communities of administrators and department heads, the work groups and the Faculty Council. ‘Outside’ experts will also be asked to review the plan with an impartial, critical eye. The definitive version of the plan should be complete by the spring of 2017.  

If you have any other questions about the Strategic Plan, please feel free to send a mail to project leader Anje Bakker at science2021@uu.nl