With its recent appointment of four new Senior Fellows, Utrecht University is providing a fresh impetus to teaching innovation. Irma Meijerman (Science), Veronique Schutjens (Geosciences), Vincent Crone (Humanities) and Leoniek Wijngaards-de Meij (Social and Behavioural Sciences) will have a wide remit to lead improvements in academic teaching. Below, Leoniek shares her plans...
What aspects of teaching at the UU do you want to innovate?
The best education takes place in settings where not everyone is alike. Differences in backgrounds and ways of looking at things can enrich education. I'm going to explore how we can improve teaching through a more diverse and inclusive culture. For instance, how can we attract more students from under-represented groups? I also want to collaborate with projects at other faculties and universities, because working together may enable us to accomplish even more.
What does this opportunity mean for you personally?
It is brilliant that the university wants to invest more in its diversity policy and that it has appointed me to do so. As well as tying in closely with my research into the student admission process, this policy is also something I feel very strongly about. Apart from the importance of creating the best possible academic environment for all of our students, I also feel it's important that we as a university work to create a more equitable society.
How does UU score in terms of valuing research and teaching excellence equally?
I am proud that UU is sending this clear signal – to both the university community and the rest of the world – that teaching and research are equally important. Although the culture change is ongoing and the gap is still large, important steps are being taken. The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, for instance, is promoting six assistant professors to associate professorships in recognition of their excellence in teaching and educational innovation and leadership. These are clear choices that the university is making, and they're essential to shape a culture in which research and teaching enjoy equal status.