UR 08 - 345
The Rectors and Presidents of ECIU members
The ECIU Board members
The ECIU local coordinators
The ECIU Student Wing representatives
Enschede, September 8th 2008
Regarding: Board Meeting on October 9th / 10th in Hamburg
Dear Colleagues and ECIU Board members,
You recently received the invitation to the next ECIU Executive Board meeting at TUHH in Hamburg. As your new speaker I would like to use the opportunity of this meeting to discuss with you the further development and organisation of our consortium. I hope we will have a thorough discussion on this subject, leading to a number of conclusions and decisions.
One year after the celebration of its 10th anniversary, the ECIU is at a stage where it seems sensible to reassess our activities and accomplishments, but also the basic assumptions on the consortium with regard to content and organisation. Do we engage in the appropriate projects and activities? Are we satisfied with the outcome? How do we measure the success of the consortium? There are a number of questions that I can see being raised, and I would like to encourage all of you to openly voice you opinions, expectations, concerns, ideas and suggestions.
First of all here is the question of the content of ECIU’s activities. So far we have concentrated on student exchange, including joint master-programmes, staff development and university industry interaction.
Although the graduate school is doing quite well, and the twinning programmes at undergraduate level are taking shape, exchange between ECIU institutions in many cases is only a minor part of our exchange-activity. Several members would like to see a substantial increase in inter-ECIU exchange. Our leadership development programme attracted an unprecedented 22 participants this year, but the funding has not yet been organized well enough. Nevertheless, during a recent visit at the EUA office in Brussels it was suggested to Bettina and me that we are as consortium unique in Europe in organizing this kind of activity. If so, it is even more an argument to try to get funding from the EU-commissions programme on modernizing university governance. With regard to university industry interaction, we recently decided to expand our activities to involve regional authorities. At the same time, now that the Difuse-project has ended, this area of activities lacks a concrete goal and activity.
Looking at these activities we could conclude that a new project for university-industry interaction, additional funding for the leadership-programme and continued, or increased, efforts to develop student exchange might be sufficient to keep the consortium on track.
At the same time, suggestions are made to widen our activities. A number of institutions is interested in developing some links on specified research areas within the consortium. Use of partners as an international benchmark in accreditation-procedures has been suggested as well. PhD-education, including preparation for the labour market is another subject: one in which Brussels also has an interest. Finally we all feel the impact of ‘the battle for brains’: it is increasingly difficult to attract or retain talented faculty.
In the past, the board always concluded that the consortium should concentrate on a few subjects, and be realistic in the goals that could be achieved. Moreover, our relatively limited budget poses a cap on our activities. Nevertheless, I feel that ECIU is at a stage where a thorough discussion of the topics we want to get involved in (where applicable in the form of projects) is necessary and would help bringing the consortium forward. Of course, the outcomes of this discussion may lead to a change in the current structure of ECIU with three Core Areas, Steering Committees and project groups.
Next to content there is the commitment of member institutions to be discussed. The ECIU can only do as much as its member institutions are willing to contribute. This refers not only to financial means, but especially to the workload of staff that individual member institutions agree to commit to ECIU activities. Apart from the local coordinators, additional staff is required to engage in project groups like the Steering Committees, the PR Group and the Student Mobility Group. But we also rely on the willingness of Board members to devote time to ECIU-related matters. Our activities in Brussels have increasingly seen responses from different relevant organisations and individuals, and there is growing interest in having ECIU representatives join expert groups and discussion forums. Also, in order to play a significant role with the consultation process of the European Commission, on the one hand ECIU will need input from its member institutions on policy papers, and on the other hand it will be necessary to devote additional time for face-to-face interaction with the relevant people in Brussels. I would like to encourage every member institution to consider to what extend it will be willing and able to contribute to these activities.
Apart from commitment from the board members, local coordinators, and staff-members, I consider it of the utmost importance for the future of the consortium that ECIU becomes more alive in the hearts and minds of the ordinary faculty and students at our institutions. I am afraid that to date in many institutions ECIU is not much known outside of the rector’s or president’s office. We will have to consider means to change this situation and make ECIU wider known. The Swinburne approach of setting up regular meetings of all staff engaged in ECIU activities, chaired by a dean, could be seen as an example. The PR Group might be asked to come up with recommendations for an improvement in the acquaintance and awareness of ECIU within the institutions. It also could be useful if every board member at board meetings gives a short report on the recent ECIU activities of the respective member institution, so that we can learn from each others experiences.
The reassessment of our activities and the commitments required might also lead to a change in the number and composition of ECIU membership. Additional partners from the new EU member states could complement our consortium and open up new opportunities for EU funded activities. I would be very interested in hearing your view on this matter as well.
Looking back at discussions that took place in Monterrey, when the consortium celebrated its 5th anniversary, I can see that we are still looking at the same subjects: the content of our activities and the commitment of the institutions to the consortium. And we are still looking at the question: will we be relatively modest or more ambitious, and if so, accept the consequences of our ambition.
Dear colleagues, I have sent this letter to the rectors and presidents of our ECIU- institutions, and to the other board-members and local coordinators, because I hope that the issues raised in this letter will be discussed in the boardrooms of our member-institutions prior to our meeting in October.
I am looking forward to a fruitful discussion in Hamburg. If you have not already done so, please send your registration to Hamburg’s local coordinator and the ECIU secretariat (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com).
Dr. Anne H. Flierman
Speaker of ECIU