Utrecht University’s vision statement introduced a new model for Recognition & Rewards: TRIPLE. This model resembles the MERIT model that has been in use for some time, including at Utrecht University. So people understandably have questions about how they differ from one another. In this article, we will explain how the models overlap and where the differences lie, and why the university has chosen to introduce the new TRIPLE model.

Context matters. That is the short and sweet summary of the reasoning behind the decision to expand the MERIT model to TRIPLE. Based on the Open Science principle and the national position paper (Room for Everyone’s Talent), the university’s Recognition and Rewards working group has worked to formulate a shared UU-wide vision on Recognition and Rewards. Conversations with the working group, staff and professionals have indicated that MERIT is a good starting point, but that Utrecht University has different needs for Recognition and Rewards and other domains where employees are active. The TRIPLE model builds on the foundations of the MERIT model, and in general the two models have more similarities than differences.

The first major difference is that TRIPLE is explicitly based on the team. ‘T’ is not just the first letter of the acronym; it is also the point where every form of recognition and reward – including hiring, selection and promotion – begins: at the team’s mission, strategy and needs. Goals pertaining to the key domains are formulated at the team level, where they are applied to structures and activities that individual team members can contribute to. The university has deliberately chosen to replace the term ‘team science’ with the less research-focused and more collective ‘team spirit’ or ‘team effort’.

Building on current knowledge and insights in the field of HRM, organisational psychology and organisational studies, the university has chosen to give ‘leadership’ a prominent role in TRIPLE, rather than ‘management’. Good leadership in an academic community is based on the collective and has a positive effect on attitudes and behaviour. The university will therefore focus strongly on generating change through leadership over the coming years, through training, intervision and supervision/coaching where necessary.

After some deliberation, the domain ‘professional performance’ was added to the key domains of education and research. It encompasses the ‘patient care’ domain described in the national position paper, but has been expanded to include activities conducted outside the walls of the UMCs. Professional performance covers all activities in which academics are involved that are related to the university’s mission, but which cannot be classified as ‘education’ or ‘research’. This includes veterinary patient care, the role of academics in advisory bodies and committees, or acting as temporary consultant.

Finally, ‘Impact’ has a different connotation in the TRIPLE model. Where MERIT considered impact to be a separate domain for generating results, in TRIPLE it is an integral component of the three key domains (Research, Education & Professional Performance). Impact is ‘a way of working’. That formulation emphasises how generating impact cannot be a goal or domain in itself in a healthy system of recognition and rewards. It is not desirable for academics to focus exclusively on public outreach or marketing their ideas. Collective goals can be achieved by following the routes of the three key domains, so education, research and professional performance can all have impact, both within and outside the academic community.


MERIT model :

TRIPLE model :


E, R, I, T

E, R, I, T


M (management)

L (leadership); academic leadership in the broader sense, including management duties. Utrecht University considers personal, organisational and administrative/strategic leadership.


T (team science)

T (team spirit or team effort); community, exchanges and collaboration.



P (professional performance); encompasses broader activities within the university and UMCU as part of UU (see ‘patient care’)


Impact as result (strongly linked to knowledge transfer and outreach)

Impact as a way of working


E, R, I, as domains

E, R, P as domains; impact integral component of E, R, P


Tilburg model

Tailored specifically to Utrecht University