On Thursday 26 April, Prof. Ko de Ridder has been appointed Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau.
Jacobus (Ko) de Ridder (Oostvoorne, 1949 ) was Professor of Public Administration until he retired in 2014. Since then he has been Honorary Professor of Comparative Public Management at the Faculty of Law at the UG. He is a versatile, influential professor who has succeeded in promoting interaction between administrative law and public administration. He was one of the founders of a research group that combined normative legal research with empirical social sciences research. This was unique in the Netherlands.
With his academic background in political science and public administration, De Ridder is a pioneer in the field of interdisciplinary research into public administration. He was often one of the first to recognize the importance of a certain theme and publish an influential text on it. His argument on juridification in the volume De rechtstaat herdacht in 1989, for instance, was as captivating as it was contentious. Here he claimed that expanding and refining the system of rules weakens governance roles. Over the years he has made his mark on topical themes such as trust in government and the legitimacy of government action. He has many innovative publications to his name on the position of independent supervisory bodies that were under attack by politicians and academics. He also played a special role as rapporteur for Commissie Steekhoudend Ministerschap, a committee on ministerial responsibility installed by the Dutch House of Representatives.
The question of how to give shape to government supervision of the semi-public and private sector has gained in importance with corporatization, privatization and the growing role of market forces. Groundbreaking research into such supervision has been a theme in De Ridder’s career. In 2003 he became the first Endowed Professor of Supervisory Bodies in the Netherlands. His PhD thesis was in the field of supervision and spatial planning, and it was with immense clarity that he exposed the tension between the legal form of supervisory relationships and how they function in practice. He managed to secure funding for a programme of five related research projects on supervision and responsibility. His goal has always been to clarify the practice of supervision and make it easier to solve problems.
De Ridder has always expressed the belief that research and teaching are intertwined and that this is a distinctive feature of academic teaching. He therefore believes that lecturers should also be researchers. Lecturers do not just convey knowledge but also contribute to students’ academic training. He believes that lecturers must also be able to express new insights clearly. Since his appointment as university lecturer in the early 1980s, he has always put these beliefs into practice. He gives students his full attention and invests a lot of time in his teaching. Many students made decisive moves in their studies or careers after talking to him. He still devotes a lot of time to PhD candidates. Since 2002 he has been an inspiring and motivational supervisor to over 20 PhD candidates. Since his retirement he has continued to supervise three PhD candidates and is still involved in teaching. He also made his mark on the Faculty by establishing the Juridische Bestuurswetenschappen (Law and Public Administration) degree programme in the early 1980s together with two direct colleagues. This was a unique public administration programme for a Dutch faculty of law.
De Ridder has also earned international esteem. He spent a year working as a lecturer and researcher in public administration at Central Michigan University in Michigan USA in the early 1990s and was visiting professor at the University of Ontario Law School in 2002. Since 2005 he has spent a lot of time supervising several international projects that aim to further the development of higher education in Eritrea and Tanzania. His efforts have resulted in various theses.
De Ridder also has an excellent reputation outside the academic world as an authority in his field. He advised the Ministry of Defence in 2002 on how to respond to the Srebrenica report and has regularly joined a variety of research committees, often ministerial ones. For instance, he sat on the Evaluation Committee for the Safety Regions Act and the Disaster and Crisis Management System, and as a committee member was prepared to tackle difficult topics such as Q fever, the Turkish Airlines crash and the Facebook riots in Haren.
Alongside his academic work, De Ridder has demonstrated his commitment to the field of public administration. He was a valued member of the board of the Administrative Law and Public Administration Department both nationally and internationally. Under his leadership as chair of VIDE, the professional association of inspectors, supervisors and evaluators, he has had a significant effect on the professionalization of supervision in the Netherlands. It is thanks to his efforts that the gap between academia and practice has narrowed. Since his retirement he has continued to work tirelessly on teaching and research and publications. Last year the Province of Groningen asked him to evaluate its system of inter-administrative supervision. He completed this assignment alongside his work for the Faculty with the same commitment shown during his academic career.
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