University Council: new educational vision can be more concrete and daring

| Rense Kuipers

A little more historical awareness, more guts and fewer buzzwords. The University Council issued this advice to the Executive Board on Wednesday morning about the new overarching vision on education that is being made. The vision must be completed at the start of 2023.

In the middle: UReka member Milan Gomes.

Now that the educational vision is nearing completion, the Executive Board asked the University Council for advice. In the so-called ‘Vision on Learning and Teaching’ – now eight pages long – ‘Learning-by-Interacting’ is at the centre of attention. The underlying educational goals of the UT are Learning-By Doing’, ‘Building Inclusive Communities’ and ‘Self-development’. In a nutshell: you learn by doing, you learn together and you learn by developing yourself into an autonomous and critically thinking person.

Identity and buzzwords

The University Council devised nine recommendations to improve the current draft version. The first recommendation was about self-reflection: who are we as a university and how do we differ from other institutions? For the occasion, Milan Gomes (UReka) brought the lustrum book Van Landgoed tot Kenniscampus from 2001 to the meeting. ‘Much of what was written over twenty years ago still stands today. But you have to dig deep into this educational vision to find it. I am sure we have an identity as UT, but it could be more explicit.’

According to the University Council, other matters should also come back more emphatically: it is not just about the role of students who receive education, but also of the teachers who provide education. The council thought the plans for Life Long Learning also deserve more elaboration. But in other areas, it could be a ‘little less’. ‘We do not like all the buzzwords’, Gomes said. ‘Of course, it reads well, but once you pierce through that, you mainly read empty phrases. That goes at the expense of the quality of this document.’

Moreover, the University Council thought the document deserved more guts. ‘Do not be afraid to plant flagpoles’ said Jaime de Bruin (UReka). ‘Of course, reality can catch up to you. But clearly defining where you want to go helps to narrow down such a vision, which makes it more sustainable.’ Because, as Gomes pointed out earlier during the discussion: ‘It would be a pity if such a vision ends up in the desk drawer if people do not feel or recognize it.’

Balancing act

The Executive Board took many of the recommendations to heart, but added a few remarks. The roots of the UT will come back more prominently, the buzzwords will receive more explanation and context and the flagpoles will be planted. But according to Rector Tom Veldkamp, it’s a balancing act between being outspoken and being too detailed.

The rector also wanted to be careful not to put too much pressure on the academic staff. ‘We want to be ambitious, but it is up to the teachers to set the pace. The workload is high, we do not want to increase that pressure unnecessarily.’ He also pointed out the importance of communication about the vision. ‘The central document will be the same everywhere, but we can deliver the message in different ways.’

In February, the final version of the ‘Vision on Learning and Teaching’ will be submitted to the University Council for approval.

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