Victor van der Chijs, the President of the Executive Board, believes that the University of Twente has every reason to face the future with confidence. However, there will be a need to make sharper choices that keep up with developments in society. He wants to engage the organization and other stakeholders in a dialogue about a clear technological signature in a societal context.
The University of Twente has a great deal to offer, and it can be justifiably proud of this, but it now needs to navigate the way ahead more shrewdly. This is the conclusion that Mr Van der Chijs reached two months after taking up his post, following an intensive period of familiarization with the organization. “The outcome of the institutional quality assurance audit was favourable. We offer top-quality programmes and we perform well in international rankings. Recently there have been some great developments, such as the admission of our Technical Medicine graduates to the medical BIG-register. Kennispark Twente is doing well as a science and business park. I am also aware of a general sense of pride in the University of Twente.”
“But if we are to keep a firm grip on the future, we will need to be a university that no-one can ignore, and that means showing entrepreneurship, in acquiring new sources of funding for example. The timing is very fortuitous, coinciding as it does with the European Horizon 2020 programme, for example, and the associated “Grand Challenges”, in addition to changes in the national Top Sector policy. The University of Twente has the breadth of multidisciplinary talent needed to successfully tackle these social issues. A top technological university with an impact in a societal context.”
“I would like to invite students and researchers, together with external stakeholders, to contribute their ideas for a new strategy. The University Council is already describing this as “crowd planning”. And I want to challenge them to reflect deeply about their ambitions. About projects that will dominate TV News ten years from now. Projects addressing major global health issues, or smart and self sustaining cities, to name but a few. These offer the prospect of teamwork that transcends the boundaries of individual academic disciplines.”
Pointing the way ahead
“It’s all very well being an excellent nanotechnology researcher, but you also need to be aware of the social relevance of your work. At the same time, our Social Sciences and Behavioural Sciences are developing a more technological orientation. Regarding questions such as “What impact does new technology have on individuals in particular and on humanity in general?” and “What is needed for a successful introduction of new technology into society?” they are not simply followers, they are the pathfinders. This approach will do full justice to ‘High Tech Human Touch’, which up to now is still two component parts rather than an integrated whole.”
Victor van der Chijs feels that the bar needs to be raised in the area of internationalization as well: “If we are to turn our plans for this sharper profile into reality, we will soon have great need of these excellent foreign students and researchers.” And here’s another question, should we provide part of these programmes in a digital format, or should we defer to the power of the campus as a physical learning environment?
“This is all about making choices, including decisions to terminate some activities. These things always involve a degree of pain. But we are not going to impose this by decree. We want to arrive at a strategy that will enable those involved to say “I have been able to make my contribution, I also believe that this direction is both up-to-date and relevant.” We will follow up these debates in the organization by creating a reference document, containing outline details of the strategy. But documents like these will not be able to stand the test of time. The rapid pace of developments will see to that. So this will be an ongoing dialogue!”