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University must remain liveable and workable

University must remain liveable and workable

Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes

Opening academic year

MAASTRICHT. Community building, building a community. And not just the academic community of students and staff, but also focusing on stronger relations with the surroundings: the city of Maastricht, the region. This will be included in the UM’s new strategic programme.

It was also the motto of the opening of the academic year, last Monday in the Vrijthof Theatre. President of the Executive Board, Martin Paul, announced that the Executive Board believes that Maastricht University’s new strategic programme will be drawn up around eight themes, of which community building will not be the least important.

As far as Paul is concerned, the community - both inside and outside the UM - is very welcome to help think about the content of the 2016 strategic programme: “We won’t turn it into an autistic exercise.”

At the same time, our ‘own’ community will receive separate attention: the university must remain “liveable and workable”; a new HRM policy should tackle the problem of too many temporary jobs, the huge teaching burden of lecturers, and the unclear career perspectives. The UM hopes to be able to appoint about 150 lecturers from the proceeds of the student borrowing system, says Paul. That would at least be a positive effect of all the government measures that have hit universities over the past few years, from the performance agreements to the science agenda. Measures that do not always fit and that are not always appreciated by the institutes. With a funny parable about a pig-headed tailor (the government) who talks a client into accepting an ill-fitting suit, he called upon universities (the clients) to be more assertive: the ‘tailor’ has good intentions but “we should make our voices heard more often”.

Paul also voiced critical comments about the UM’s other strategic themes (including education, research, internationalisation). It was not for the first time that he said that the UM’s motto Leading in learning could be binned, as far as he was concerned. You cannot say something like that about yourself; he feels that others should say that.

Scientific research? Quality must come first, not quantity. And as far as the national science agenda is concerned, which gives the population the opportunity to express their research desires: that’s all well and good, but without extra money this could end in shifting budgets and cuts in fundamental research. Paul feels that is this no good to anyone.

A remarkable element, in conclusion, in the new strategic programme is the emphasis on the responsibility of the university for the future of its graduates, also referred to as ‘employability’. “Some may not find preparing for the labour market very academic, but it is important,” said Paul. Just like the attempt to create more job opportunities through Kennis-As Limburg projects.

Final theme: the sustainable university. The UM has the Green Office, run by students, and is attempting to not only spread the ideal but to ‘live’ it as well. Paul said that this is the direction that the UM must continue to follow.

 

Wammes Bos

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