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President Martin Paul leaves UM

President Martin Paul leaves UM

Rector at Ruhr Universität in Bochum per 1 November

MAASTRICHT. President of the Executive Board professor Martin Paul is leaving Maastricht University after thirteen years. As of 1 November, he will become rector at the Ruhr Universität in Bochum, North Rhine-Westphalia. He will not complete his third term: I wasn’t planning on leaving, but this is a unique opportunity.”

Paul (63) came to Maastricht from Berlin in 2008 to become dean of the Faculty of Health Medicine and Life sciences. In 2011, he transferred to the ‘Berg’ and became President of Maastricht University. He was determined to complete his third term – a total of twelve years – as president, he emphasised. He said the very same thing to Observant in 2018, when the supervisory board asked him to carry out a third term – very extraordinarily, only Karl Dittrich did so before him. In 2018: “I have looked at other jobs, in Germany and elsewhere. But the culture is often different there, I have become very Dutch, I like openness, not too much hierarchy. Also, universities and hospitals (Martin Paul is professor of Clinical Pharmacology, ed.) there are often large tankers, with little opportunities to change anything. Here in Maastricht, you can really do business, things like the development of Brightlands, the founding of the new Faculty of Science and Engineering, the international university networks.”

Refreshing

Now he says: I will be leaving a little sooner, one and a half years. I couldn’t say to the Ruhr Universität Bochum (RUB): call me in two years’ time. I want to take one last risk; I am ready to do that.” And his remarks about German universities? Yes, I certainly said that, that is why I initially said no’ when Bochum called. But I did notice in the discussions – to my surprise – that the RUB has a refreshingly different culture, which – strangely enough –looks a lot like that of the UM. That appealed to me. So, it is not your typical German university, I get the feeling that I may be able to do business there too.” 

Mine closure

There are similarities with the UM in other areas as well: The RUB was founded as an answer to the closing of the mines in the Ruhr area, as a university that would do things differently, focussed on the region and the non-traditional student: the young man and woman who will be the first in the family to go to university. I myself am a first-generation student too.”

He likes the idea of working in Germany again and speaking German. I speak good Dutch, but obviously I speak very good German. I did have to get used to being formal again, the hierarchy, and the form of address.” Laughing: In the Netherlands, you are on first-name basis after eight minutes, in Germany after eight years.” 

Orange ceiling

He was the first university president in the Netherlands with a foreign passport. I was a trendsetter, after that there were more university executives who were from abroad. I never had any trouble with resentment. Everyone is familiar with the glass ceiling for women. Foreign people speak of the orange ceiling, that you will never be able to reach the highest as a non-Dutch person. I never felt that.”

Highest boss

The rectorship at a German university is a double position: rector and president rolled into one. So, he will be the highest boss. The RUB, with 43 thousand students and twenty faculties, is one of the largest universities in Germany. Founded in 1962, accepting its first students in 1965. The institute is in 251st place in the Times Higher Education ranking. More than a hundred places lower than the UM. It has quite a lot of potential. To put it in sports terms: I would rather be a coach that potentially has a lot to win, than a coach that is at the top. He can only lose. I like it that everything I learned in the Netherlands I can now put to use in Germany.”

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