FASoS research review: much praise and food for thought


MAASTRICHT. The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences was showered with praise late last week by the committee that came to assess its research. Plaudits went not only to the quality of the research (“very good”) and the PhD programme (“very professional”), but also to the “focus on people”. However, the workload was judged to be “still very high”.

Johan Schot, the chair of the committee and director of the interdisciplinary Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, summarised the findings last Thursday afternoon in a well-attended session in the Turnzaal.

It was a far cry from the yellow cards issued in 2014 and 2015, in which several FASoS teaching programmes were deemed insufficient.  Over the last five years clear progress has been made in terms of research, the committee concluded.  Also in 2011, in the last full-blown research assessment, the findings were very positive. The faculty is “well managed and we agree on your choice for quality over quantity. The objectives are clear and you’re flexible in the implementation. That’s very positive. The basis is very solid.” Schot did not stop there, however. He also gave the faculty food for thought: “What will be your next step – further consolidation or a new vision?”

The quality of research conducted at FASoS was described as “very good and very influential internationally”. Further, the policy with respect to the NWO (the Dutch research funding body) is “successful” and the PhD programme “very professional”. “If I were younger I’d want to be a PhD student here”, Schot laughed. When it comes to diversity, “you score very highly in many, many ways.”

The committee was impressed by the interdisciplinarity of the faculty. “It comes naturally to you. You have many disciplines in house, many meeting places, and they are productive.” All this provides opportunities, Schot continued: “You could exploit that further. If you could become a world leader in certain areas, this could be one of them.”

The choice for the third bachelor’s programme, Digital Society, was also lauded. It fits well with the existing research, but will it also enhance the quality of that research? That’s a topic for further investigation, said the committee.

Last but not least, the staff were considered of high quality, with a good network. Many ideas and developments arise “bottom up, organically, and that’s very positive”. At the same time, however, “they need to be nurtured.”

Finally, the strategic focus on people “is very good. They are your key resource.” Yet the “work pressure is still very high. And there’s no easy way out”, Schot said. “Maybe you could consider automatic free research time after every three years.”

The official report of the research review, which takes place once every six years, is due in November.


FASoS research review: much praise and food for thought
Fasos building Grote Gracht