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A licence to kill ... and to hug

A licence to kill ... and to hug

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

SBE dean presents update new strategy

MAASTRICHT. The School of Business and Economics now has communities of sixty students, pools in which tutors collaborate and a new set of research themes. The “strategic renewal” will reach into every corner of the faculty – and it is already in full swing.

At present, specially formed squads with a “licence to kill” are at work in the School of Business and Economics. It may sound like a James Bond film, but their task is to set up a new management structure. The squads also have a “licence to hug”, adds SBE dean Philip Vergauwen.

The Thursday before Carnival, the SBE staff gathered in the large lecture hall for an update from the dean on the new strategy. The problem with the current situation, Vergauwen explains to the audience, is that nobody  is kept up at night by the drop in the number of master’s students, lack of multidisciplinary study programmes and declining revenues from professional education. This is set to change.

The squads are temporary units that are paving the way for four “result responsible units” (RRUs), which will be accountable for the study programmes for both students and professionals as well as for research. This structure is intended to make the faculty more effective. Where good ideas once faltered because all departments had to give them the go-ahead, the RRUs will be able to push such initiatives through (although all departments will still be represented in them).

The units will also rap departments on the knuckles when things go wrong. For instance, the RRU responsible for education will be able to call a department to account if a lecturer is performing below par. Departments will no longer be involved in decision making, but rather suppliers of personnel.

The study programmes, too, are set to get a facelift. Bachelor’s students will have more freedom to follow courses in areas other than economics and be given greater exposure to the ethical aspects of the profession. The master’s programmes will place more emphasis on collaborative learning in projects, with a particular focus on skills and employability.

During the question and answer session Harm Hospers, head of EDLAB (the institute for education innovation), asks whether he too can expect to come into contact with these squads.

“Absolutely, with 9 mm pistols”, Vergauwen replies. “Naturally we’ll be working with EDLAB when it comes to new forms of Problem-Based Learning.”

Students are playing an important role in the new strategy. SCOPE, the umbrella organisation for all study associations at SBE, will be closely involved with issues surrounding community building, employability, communication and education innovation.

Further, research is set to be better integrated with education. In the spirit of the CORE philosophy (Collaborative Open Research Education), students learn how to conduct research, including through research internships and assistantships. The school recently came up with five new, overarching research themes: behavioural policy design; conflict, cooperation and diversity; data-driven decision making; human capital development and employability; and sustainability. Vergauwen sees room for improvement when it comes to developing study programmes with a social impact, but “don’t go thinking SBE will only be interested in consultancy or applied research”.

Then there is the overhaul of professional education, which the dean considers not just a source of income (however meagre), but an essential part of the faculty. It should be seen as a platform that brings together lecturers and professionals to address issues, themes and projects from real-world practice.

Finally, a new HR policy is being developed to make SBE more appealing to prospective employees from Limburg, the Netherlands and abroad. This involves expanding the range of available career paths and job profiles and making the existing policy more transparent. To reduce the skewed gender balance, in spring the Faculty Board will appoint two to three new female associate professors on a track towards full professorships. Thanks to this initiative, Vergauwen was quickly made an “ambassador” of the Dutch Network of Women Professors (LNVH).

The strategic innovations will be rolled out “in several waves” (“not tsunamis”). The tutor pools, student communities and revamped research themes are ready to go. The new HR policy is currently being prepared and the squad contracts are being drafted in consultation with the departments. In the coming months, a new financial allocation model will be developed and the budget for 2018 drawn up.

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