On Monday afternoon, Kristel Baele, the President of EUR’s Executive Board, presented the mission and framework of the university’s new strategy at the official opening of the 2018-2019 academic year. In doing so, she kicked off a one-year process, because the final draft of the strategy will not be presented until the opening of the next academic year, in September 2019.
Mission and seven priorities
In its current form, the framework consists of a mission, as phrased by the Executive Board and the deans of the faculties, and seven priorities.
“Our mission is to make a positive impact on societal challenges. We strive to understand and make progress toward solving complex societal challenges, in alignment with our core activities of education and research, and in close cooperation with our partners locally and globally.”
The seven priorities were partly drawn up in recent months by a group of some fifty young employees and students making up a so-called ‘green team’.
These contributors provided additional input and helped fine-tune the rough draft of the list of priorities drawn up by the Board and deans. The team included ‘freethinkers’ and ‘contrarians’ who were either approached or volunteered to give effect to the stated priorities. Rather than just using ‘empty words’, the green team really provided important input. As the President of the Executive Board stated, important matters were discussed at the meetings.
- Ensuring education is future-oriented
- Steering excellent academic research embedded in society
- Fostering our societal impact identity
- Making the most of our interdisciplinary potential
- Investing in our talent for the future
- Stepping up our professional services
- Stepping up our sustainability efforts
Sustainability gets its own position
Following some pressure exerted by the green team and the student members of the University Council, sustainability was made a priority in its own right in the framework. “We spent a lot of time discussing whether sustainability should simply be incorporated into each priority, or whether it should be considered a separate priority in its own right. In the end, at the contributors’ insistence, we opted for the latter,” said Baele.
Furthermore, the word ‘future-oriented’ was added to the priority relating to the quality of EUR’s degree programmes. “We added that specifically in response to the input provided by the students involved. We should not only provide our students with good teaching, but properly prepare them for future transitions in society, regardless of the nature of these transitions – sustainability or robotisation.”
What is a university good for?
External partners play a vital part in the university’s strategy. “This university was born from a wish to improve society, but now, for the first time ever, education, research and this wish to improve society are equally important aspects of our strategy. Our university should not just ask itself what it is good at, but also what it is good for,” Baele emphasised.
For this reason, when the Board drew up the framework, it made a point of consulting ten stakeholders, ranging from the municipal authorities, the Port of Rotterdam Authority and education institutions from across the region, to ask them about their expectations for the university.
A year to complete the strategy
This autumn, the new Rector, Rutger Engels, will host an ‘impact conference’ whose objective is to define in greater detail what exactly constitutes a ‘societal impact’, and what impact the university seeks to make.
In the next few months, the Executive Board and the deans will ‘sit on their hands for a bit’, as Baele put it. During those months it will be up to the academic community to flesh out and further detail the framework, and to come up with proposals (and suggestions regarding their implementation too). The strategy is scheduled for completion by September 2019, after which the university will have its strategy in place until 2024.
In the coming months, the framework (consisting of the mission and the seven priorities) will be further developed by so-called Strategy Design Labs (SDL). Groups consisting of ten to fifteen members of the academic community (students, staff and external partners) will draw up proposals outlining how to attain our intended objectives for each individual priority. Participants in the labs will spend one to two days per week working on the proposals. People who are interested in participating in an SDL but cannot spare the time, or whose SDL of choice has enough members already, are invited to join a so-called Community of Interest, which will be invited to provide feedback on the SDL’s plans during the drafting of the proposals.
The SDLs will submit their plans to the Board in December. After that, it will be the Strategy Team’s (Executive Board and deans) turn again to ensure that the proposals are incorporated into an overall strategic plan for the university. In September 2019, the Strategic Plan for 2019-2024 will be presented at the official opening of the new academic year.
Staff and students will be updated on the progress made on the strategy through MyEUR, the university’s intranet site.