March 11, 2014
René Torenvlied, chair in Public Management
Collaboration, networking, is essential. In the nearby future we will be confronted with a large amount of ‘technological challenges with a human component,’ but of even greater importance are the ‘human challenges with a technological component.’ We should think about the importance of regulating behavior, and affecting public performance.
My dream is to optimize our “learning environment,” to exchange best practices on every organizational level. Within our institution and outside our institution, national and international, between the public and private sector etc.
Technological aspects are fully integrated in this dream. For instance, in dealing with Big Data we need technology, such as smart performance measurement systems. Sharing best practices between companies, sectors or networks needs to be facilitated by technological solutions.
It is however important that we prevent technology of becoming a so called ‘black box.’ People need to know how technology works and/or facilitates. For that purpose different intervention strategies / technologies need to be designed and tested.
Specifically for the UT, this dream could mean setting up multi-disciplinary teams, combining expertise from all disciplines.
What does this mean for our education?
A: On the one hand we need to attract students who are interested in the challenges the public administration faces, but who also have an affinity with technology. These students will need to focus on performance based management, collaborating with their technological counterparts.
Johnny Søraker, assistant professor at the department of Philosophy
High Tech, Human touch is a good slogan. But the question is how we keep the ‘human touch’ in our jobs and carry it out to our students. It is the people that make the UT a flourishing university.
People are happy when they:
-are able to do what they are good at
-are able to identify what they are good at
Academics are often unhappy, because they are not facilitated to do what they are good at. They have to spend too much time on administrative work (finances etc.). Relevant, and current issues at the UT, are that teachers don’t know when they have to give classes, what the content of the classes has to be, what money it will cost etc. It lacks clear planning and stability. We are in a ‘constant change,’ but change is only good when it’s positive.
To become a good university, both students and employees should flourish. That means our perspective should be focuses outside our university, but definitely also inside our university.
A good university offers students time to develop themselves in many ways (both educational as well as social). Creativity is only stimulated when students learn a bit of everything, and that’s what our education should offer. Besides, students bring a university and campus to life. Creativity should also be stimulated amongst employees. For example, if PhD’s and Post-Docs want to develop their educational skills, that should be encouraged and facilitated.
Sometimes students are afraid to make mistakes. They want us to provide specific assignments, with a clear plan.
A: We should not forget that students also need guidance and still have to learn how to study, plan and organize. That is also an important role of teachers.
“There are lots of conflicting demands in a ‘creative system’ (t-shaped professional). You want to stimulate creativity and the ‘free thought,’ but you also have demands like 12 hours of lectures per week, 10 weeks of lessons, 2 exams, 90% should successfully complete the class etc.“
How can teachers deal with that?
A: Rules, regulations and planning do not exclude creativity.
“On the one hand students need time to think and be creative; on the other hand these 10 weeks force teachers into formulating clear assignments.”
To what extent do we have the luxury of time, for both students and teachers, within the strict 10 weeks of TOM?
A: That is something we all need to think about. Nobody has the right solutions yet, but we are all confronted with the same situation.
Victor van der Chijs, chair of the UT
The UT as a whole should be more ‘aggressive’ and entrepreneurial. My dream for this university is that as soon as a newspaper publishes an article for instance on ‘the impact of technology on employment of the middle class’ a reaction of the UT follows. We have a lot to offer with our knowledge of both technology and society.
We want students to have the time to develop themselves, but we also need an international focus. For instance by bringing international students to our campus. Having classrooms with different nationalities and being confronted with different cultures, is also an important learning experience.
Being an entrepreneurial university is not only about starting your own company, but is a mindset. Open minded, seeking and seizing opportunities (including failure) and getting inspired.
PR is very important. But how can we improve our visibility internationally if even in the Netherlands people are not aware of our existence?
For one, we should not be too modest; we have to seek more publicity. A question is why we – academics – don’t reach out for publicity more often?
“Most universities attract students from their region. The number of Dutch students going abroad is stable, or even declining.”
Why the emphasis on internationalization?
A: The focus is also on getting foreign students here, in our master programs.
Professors are primarily selected on their publications. If we want opinion leaders at the UT, we have to set different selection criteria.
A: Maybe we should attract more professors who know how to interpret the data, instead of the ones who will cause scientific breakthroughs. Opinion leaders need to have ‘sex appeal.’ We need both of course; excellent researchers and opinion leaders.
We can all write articles for newspapers. The question is if we’re not of academic excellence whether our articles we get accepted.
A: Newspapers don’t always select on academic excellence. They can also be interested in a (different) opinion, or value the fact that you always give critical input and make your opinion heard.
Staff should be happy for a university to flourish. How should we deal with all the conflicting demands?
A: We need to create an atmosphere that empowers our employees. In the nearby future we will focus more on facilitating our academics while making an effort of limiting bureaucracy.
“The administration of primary process – education - is messed up and therefore extremely time consuming. We have bad data or even no data at all (such as student-staff ratio). We experience an overload of norms/demands, which are not realistic at all (such as the role of ‘meelezer’).”
What are your thoughts on the administration process?
A: There are two issues. First is that we don’t have the data and second it is often unclear what purpose this data serves. What will the data asked be used for? A lot of it is ‘number fetishism.’ Every university manipulates numbers to end up higher in a ranking. Often it is a waste of time, energy and money to figure the numbers out. We would better focus on criteria that actually tell us something about the quality of our education.
Ed Brinksma, rector
What is a university in time of great changes? A university will always focus of facilitating learning, but how… We can’t predict 2025; the technological developments are too rapid.
Examples of these developments are:
-Brain implants (biomaterial). Maybe in the future we will have an implant for ‘talent.’
And what do these types of developments mean for the t-shaped professional?
Everybody – good or bad academics – will fall behind on the fact and developments. We will live in a ‘world of networks.’ As a participant in a network you will need enough to offer. The UT will have to connect to networks, but what do we have to offer? What is our niche? Excellence is no longer enough.
Where does the UT stand in 2025? Essential is the learning economy (report WRR), we will have to facilitate personal ‘paths of learning’. Students choose exactly what they want to learn.
Research facilities will be too expensive for a university; they will be shared within networks.
What do these developments mean for the T-shaped professional?
A: Nobody knows. We should offer a variety of education options, but always skills with knowledge. Skills alone are nothing. But students might be able to build their own curriculum. We should be more relaxed with students choosing their own modules, building their own education. Nobody knows what lies ahead, we don’t know what a student needs to learn.
The role of the UT is very modest in this, isn’t it?
A: We should not be too afraid, we should experiment. For example: all UT-students get Google glasses and we will experiment with that.
The UT will never be al global player, that is realistic.
A: Why not…? Princeton has only 6.000 students. Or compare us to Wageningen; we have the same amount of financial resources, but they are better than we are.
How do other universities think about all these developments. What is their plan?
A: Different. Not everybody focusses on technology. But for the UT we need both; society & technology. As a small university we can add in the sense that we have knowledge on the use of technology in society. For the future the UT will have to participate in different networks. Geographical location is irrelevant, people find each other on topics. Synergy is a key word.