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Executive Board reinforces its grip on dean appointments

MAASTRICHT. The Executive Board will get a much bigger hand in the appointment of new deans. All three members will from now be part of the Appointments Advisory Committee. This is one of the aspects of the new procedure for the (re)appointment of deans, recently decided upon by the Executive Board.

Recruitment for a dean for the Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Science has started, the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences is looking for a successor for the present dean, Anita Jansen, and Sophie Vanhoonacker at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has almost completed her term, which runs out on 1 January 2020.

Until now, it was only standard practice for the rector to be part of the Appointments Advisory Committee, (BAC, or benoemingsadviescommissie). The other members - with the exception of one dean from elsewhere - came from the faculty. The BAC that eventually put professor Anita Jansen forward as dean (as of 1 June 2016) of the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences, for example, consisted of three professors from FPN, an associate professor, the director, and a student. In the case of the recruitment of a dean for Law (Jan Smits per 1 January 2018) and the one for the School of Business and Economics (Peter Møllgaard, per 1 April 2018), the BACs had a similar structure.

The existing rules in the UM's Administration and Management Regulation (Bestuurs- en beheersreglement UM, or BBRUM) permit such a structure for BACs. But in the new procedure that was recently decided upon by the Executive Board after consultation with the Board of Deans, room to manoeuvre has been greatly restricted. From now on, the Appointments Advisory Committee will “in principle” consist of the entire Executive Board, and the board will appoint two scientists from the faculty concerned as well as a dean from another faculty. The Faculty Council may put forward a student and a staff member from the administrative and support staff.

According to rector Rianne Letschert, this does not constitute a change of the Administration and Management Regulation, but a further elaboration. This implies that the intervention will not be put before the University Council. But why these changes? “We wanted a more transparent procedure, it just wasn't clearly formulated,” says Letschert. “I have learned lessons from the latest rounds. It doesn't work to be there just as a rector. Because of their responsibilities, all members of the Executive Board have a great deal to do with the deans, so it is important that they also sit in initially and not just later on, when everything has practically been decided three months later. We are more familiar with the dossiers that deans have to deal with than a professor, for example.” Besides: “I don't find it a pleasant procedure if the Executive Board can turn down a candidate after that candidate has almost reached the finish line.”

No, this is absolutely not an attempted coup, Letschert said. “The faculty has certainly not been set aside. I will discuss the job profile with the Faculty Council, and in that phase people can already put forward their preferences. I will take their input very serious. At the end, I will return with a candidate. The council itself selects two members for the Appointments Advisory Committee; the Executive Board selects two scientists. We want a good committee that has broad support in the faculty, an Appointments Advisory Committee that represents the various groups in the faculty. We are talking about applications for top positions; we must look at that very seriously. It is a tremendously difficult job.”

We recruit, in principle, internally as well as externally. The rector and the HR director together decide who is eligible for the first round of interviews. Eventually, the Appointments Advisory Committee puts forward an external and an internal candidate (at least one of whom is female), after which the entire Executive Board carries out a second interview with the candidates and makes a choice. “We thought about this, because well, it is a little strange that you give advice to yourself. But there may be reasons why you would want to deviate from the advice, for example, where it concerns the structure of the management team (deans and the Executive Board, ed.). At this very moment, there are three procedures running at the same time, I wouldn't want us to end up with six men, or only Dutch people in the management team.”

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