Despite dark clouds looming on the horizon, the University of Groningen is in good shape. At the opening of the Academic Year on 5 September, Prof. Elmer Sterken, Rector Magnificus of the University of Groningen, gave an optimistic view of the future. The financial position of the institution is healthy, research in certain sectors is world class, and the education is attractive to international students.
In his speech, Sterken outlined the contours of the new Groningen educational philosophy, which he is currently developing. ‘From now on, the full attention of students is required’, he says. Students with ambition who can keep up a good study pace – that’s what the university wants.
The introduction of the BSA system has led to the percentage of students earning at least 40 of the 60 ECTS credit points rising from 60 to 80 percent. Sterken also made a preliminary announcement of a further measure. ‘Shouldn’t students belong to a specific cohort? That’s an aspect we want to flesh out. This should lead to greater cohesion and better studying behaviour.’
In his speech, Sterken explored the frontiers of the university. He asked what is expected of a university in these times of crisis. This is also a time when society must renew its technological basis while struggling with the consequences of the most far-reaching globalization ever. ‘What can we contribute to the development of regional, national and European society?’
The Cabinet is mainly looking for solutions in profile definitions and closer cooperation with business. But defining a profile is not easy due to increasingly strict legislation. Sterken: ‘We’re facing fixed prices, fixed salaries, compulsory admission of students, a counterproductive set of quality definitions and the obligation to impart higher education to fifty percent of the Dutch population within a certain period of time. Escape artiste Houdini would find it easier to escape from an aquarium with twenty tiger sharks than a university would to define a profile on the education market.’
Sterken does see positive sides to interaction with business, because that would enable academic research to penetrate the market faster. However, the most important thing is that the research agenda must continue to be determined by the researchers themselves, although it will be clear that the question to which social themes research can contribute the most is now crucial.
The University of Groningen is fully aware of this, and is well on the way to creating clarity. Alongside ‘healthy ageing’ and ‘energy’, ‘sustainable society’ will be a new theme, especially for the arts and social sciences sectors. Alongside research that has already proven its high quality – Sterken mentioned the Zernike Institute for Advanced Materials as an example – these themes will determine the research profile of the University of Groningen.
The opening of the Academic Year will be broadcast live via internet starting at 4 p.m. See Opening of the Academic Year 2011/2012 for the programme. See Outside Programme for an overview of outside events.
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