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“He should be around forty, not someone about to retire”

 “He should be around forty, not someone about to retire”

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

New series: who should succeed rector Luc Soete?

Rector magnificus Luc Soete is leaving. His successor will start on 1 September. Who should that be? And what should he/she do most of all? Observant will ask students and members of staff in the next few weeks.

Emeritus professor Arie Nieuwenhuijzen Kruseman, former rector of the UM and former dean of Medicine: “It is desirable that both the president and the rector are academics. So no former ministers or businessmen on the Executive Board. Obviously, one should ensure that no conflict of interest arises between the rector and the president, both being professors. I am therefore in favour of the model used in Leiden: a three-man board in which the president is also the rector. In this case, as far as I’m concerned, it should be Martin Paul. I read in the last Observant that the dean of FHML, Albert Scherpbier, is also being mentioned, but so much has to be done in that faculty that it would not be wise to change the board there at the moment.

“In addition, there is one Executive Board member for operational management and a vice rector of education. I find it extraordinarily unfortunate that our present vice rector of education is not part of the Executive Board; administratively he has no say, which needs to be changed. Education is a core activity so the vice rector should be a member of the board.

“This new setup of the Executive Board should also be the starting point for an international panel of education experts who should investigate how our model of activating education - PBL - is doing in all faculties. At the moment, our education system is too directive, not stimulating enough. Such a panel could make an analysis of strengths and weaknesses, with which the vice rector could get to work.”

Job Metsemakers, chairman of the department of General Practitioner Medicine: an intellectual with management experience. Metsemakers used this characterisation as a starting point. He had to take some time to think but eventually came up with a list of five names and put them down on paper. 

His favourite: André Knottnerus, professor of General Practitioner Medicine. “What he is good at is looking towards the future from a broad perspective, so also looking at Maastricht University’s position. There is a reason why he is the chairman of the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) and was also involved in the National Science Agenda. Which role should science play in our society?”

Randwijck or the city centre? This question is not unimportant when choosing a rector, says Metsemakers. And yes, Knottnerus is from Randwijck, but then again, he’s not. He is unaffected by this divide because he often operates outside Maastricht. Before the WRR, he was chairman of the Health Council for years.

“Moreover, Knottnerus has a pleasant manner, is very astute, and can bring people together. He is a manager who determines the direction but doesn’t necessarily need to lead the way. On the contrary, he stimulates his staff to do so. He would also fit in well on the Executive Board. There is Nick Bos, who takes care of matters internally, Martin Paul who nourishes regional contacts, and the rector, as far as I’m concerned, should have a vision of UM science in general, including its social impact.”

As said, Knottnerus is busy with the WRR and most likely not waiting to take up the position of rector in Maastricht. No problem. Metsemakers has four more candidates, who he thinks can all do the job. Second on the list (although it is not a ranking), is Mariëlle Heijltjes. “I don’t know her as well as Knottnerus, but I find her a pleasant manager [responsible for internationalisation at SBE] and as a researcher she knows all about leadership.”

Jim van Os is also on his list: professor of Psychiatry. As is Harald Merckelbach, professor of Forensic Psychology, and Harm Hospers: vice rector of Education.

Pim Martens, professor of Sustainable Development: If it were up to him, there would be no new rector at all. “I am allergic to management structures,” he laughs. “Why do we need a three-man Executive Board anyway? In other countries, universities are run by one president.” If this three-man board stays in place, the rector should be someone who “loves the university,” “is driven” and “has a connection with the region”. Yes, Martens, who is from Brunssum and still lives there, would like to see someone from Limburg at the helm. “I have no preference for male or female.” And maybe the most important thing: “He should be around forty, not someone about to retire. Of course you have to be taken seriously and be able to stand up to the ‘older’ deans and directors, but the younger you are, the more naively you can sometimes look at things, which need not be a bad thing.”

According to the regulations, the new rector must come from the ranks of the professors. But Martens would like to abolish that rule. “Why not a senior lecturer? Not all professors are better scientists.” Nevertheless, he can imagine that real scientists are not interested in a high management position. “They would rather stay on the work floor.”

Lastly, he is hoping for a candidate who, like himself, is in between disciplines, someone who connects fields. “This would give interdisciplinarity at the UM an impulse,” Martens reckons. “It is better than a few years ago, but not much is happening. The minors policy is not getting off the ground, there are few incentives for real co-operation.”

Wendy Degens, Riki Janssen, Maurice Timmermans

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