Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Who should succeed rector Luc Soete?
Rector magnificus Luc Soete is leaving. On 1 September his successor will take over. Who should that be? And what should he/she do especially? Observant will ask students and staff this question in the coming weeks.
She has been named as a suitable candidate for the rectorship several times: Mariëlle Heijltjes (47), professor of Managerial Behaviour and board member at SBE. But she is not very keen. “Of course, I am very flattered, but for me the question is: where do I feel that I can add most value, what gives me energy, passion? And at the moment that is the work I am doing now, translating research into a specific context in the framework of postgraduate education, with my feet in the mud.
“I do think that the new rector should be a woman, for the sake of diversity. But I am not going to mention any names here. Of course I know other female professors, but I don’t see them in their possible managerial role. So I would be choosing on the basis of sympathy, or because she happens to be a little more visible; those are not the most important criteria. That is the reason why I did not name a candidate when all the professors were asked. So I propose that they put a recruitment agency on it, one that would map out where all the female talent is within the UM, both the usual suspects and the less visible ones.
“Her most important task will be what I would like to call managing the polarities. These are not real but apparent contrasts, where you need both to be successful. For example, the justification demanded by government from universities versus the need to organise education and research decentrally and to facilitate innovation. It is impossible to translate everything directly from the government to the work floor, nor can you simply arrange everything decentrally. Another example: regional versus international. Purely a regional orientation would make the UM lose credibility; presenting oneself purely as international would do the same.
“Furthermore, the rector will have to consider the question what differentiates us in our education system and research, as well as internationalisation. Nobody wants dictated uniformity, but how are innovation in education and research interconnected? The rector is primarily responsible for those areas and their mutual coherence. That is part of the rector’s task. There is now a vice-rector for education, I don’t find that an ideal model; we don’t have one for research, do we? So if the vice-rector remains, it will be difficult to maintain a good division of labour with the rector. The selection committee then has an extra task: making sure that the rector and vice-rector get on well.”
“Give Luc Soete a second term,” is the reaction of Wim Groot, professor of Health Economy and professor of Evidence-Based Education. “I can’t see a reason why he should not be given another four years. He has already proven to be a good rector. I meet him regularly in the region; he holds various positions and has good a reputation and authority. He is probably not so present within the UM, but that is a good thing. A rector should not be inwardly focussed.” Then: “Surely, he is not leaving because he is turning 65? I think that it is a little silly that they still hold on to that age limit. Professors used to be able to continue until they were 70. That rule should be re-introduced quickly.”
The primary task of a rector is to safeguard education and research and to promote the coherence between the two. “I think the appointment of a vice-rector of education is an unfortunate development. Now it seems as if the rector has left education to someone else. I don’t think that is actually the case, from what I experience with Luc in strategy discussions on education, but it does give that impression.”
Luc Soete is not opting for a second term, so who should it be? “At any rate, not someone from the management circuit. So no one from the circle of deans, who know each other so well that chances of new ideas are slim. The Executive Board could do with some new blood. Someone who looks outwards. I don’t think it matters whether the new rector is a man or a woman. As long as the person has the right qualities.”
The new rector’s priority should be education. “Our task - more so than it is today - is to train students to become critical academics who can express themselves well both orally and in writing. How? By strengthening the relationship between staff and students, by creating an academic community with a great deal of personal supervision, a high degree of student involvement in research, and more emphasis on the link between education and research.”
Wammes Bos, Riki Janssen