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University Council critical about interim report on strategic plan

University Council critical about interim report on strategic plan

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MAASTRICHT. A too positive approach and especially: much too little attention for staff’s workload. The University Council is critical about the interim report on Maastricht University’s strategic plan, which was discussed during a University Council committee meeting last week.

The plan runs from 2017 to the end of 2021. The interim report describes what has come of the plans so far. Quite a lot, according to the document. Points of action have been either achieved or are already well on the way to being so. For example, the number of (digital) exchange opportunities abroad for both students and members of staff has grown and an employability centre has been set up that organises workshops and gives career guidance to prepare participants for the labour market. “But what has not been achieved? Have things also gone wrong?,” the council wants to know. Committee chairman Luc van Galen: “This is a very positive approach.”

The UM wants healthy employees, a good balance between work and private life, and above all, the university is going to do its utmost to decrease the workload, the plan states. No word about that in the interim report. “We have been complaining about that for years, but still nothing has changed,” says Kim Kuypers, council member on behalf of the academic staff. “We work hard, do a lot of overtime but there is no opportunity to use that time.” Work pressure is not just high for researchers; support and management staff (OBP) are also having a tough time, says council member Pia Harbers. “In particular the OBP staff members who are or were directly involved with COVID-19 and the cybercrisis.”

The University Council’s research and education committee also discussed the high workload. Mark Govers, council member on behalf of the academic staff, warns that the switch to online education before the summer and the hybrid education this academic year have asked a lot from lecturers: “People are getting exhausted. I am really worried about people’s physical and mental health if this continues much longer. There will come a point when it becomes too much.”

President Martin Paul understands the frustration. “It is shared by the Executive Board. Millions have been invested in alleviating the workload, but actually lowering it turns out to be very difficult.” Paul promises to put the theme higher up on the list of priorities in the coming time. Rector Rianne Letschert says that she is proud of the flexibility and power shown by employees the past few months, but that they should also realise that they should be “glad” that they “work in a sector where there is still work and they receive a salary. Many people in other professions have lost their jobs in the past months.” A solution from the rector to create some peace in the agenda: "Take a good look at what work really needs to be done and accept that you are not as productive as before the corona crisis."

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