6 September 2017

Geosciences Strategy Plan: “Maintaining quality comes first”

The faculty is healthy and really thriving. How can we ensure that we can continue this success in education and research? And how can we make sure that all staff and students are involved in the process? You can read all about it in the new Geosciences Strategy Plan which is being released online today. Dean Piet Hoekstra talks about the conception and objective of the plan.

"The Geosciences Strategy Plan has been prepared for and by staff and stakeholders of the Faculty of Geosciences," explains Prof Hoekstra. “That includes academic and support staff, as well as students, lecturers, the Faculty Council, and external parties we work with."

“I really liked the breakfast sessions we organised, in which both academic and support staff took part. You could see that they started to understand each other better. We also talked to companies, local authorities, knowledge institutions and other organisations. Those discussions sometimes produced some surprising insights. For example, municipalities really value academic programmes taught in English, while that is still a point of discussion for us.”

Guiding principles

"The plan outlines where we want to go with the faculty in the next five years," he says. "We've taken account of frameworks included in the University Strategic Plan, and our Faculty Plan provides some guiding principles for departments. That doesn’t mean, though, that they have to follow them to the letter. The departments will have to think about the actual content of their education and research themselves. But it’s a process we’ll be going through together, and that will only work if we work together."

Prof Hoekstra does not think the Strategy Plan at all unnecessary. "We are already a very successfully operating organisation. We do world-class international research, the faculty is financially healthy and gets involved with societal issues. But we do want to maintain that high standard.”

Quality over quantity

“We are growing really quickly precisely because we are such a healthy organisation," he continues. "And that's very important to remember. Growth is not an end in itself, but the result of the efforts of countless talented and motivated staff. It’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. Take the launch of the new Global Sustainability Science programme, for example, which attracted 300 new students. To ensure the quality of such a new programme we were forced to request to restrict intake in the second year. If we hadn’t done that, we wouldn’t have been able to guarantee the quality that the students are entitled to.

Close cooperation

But what does this mean for the individual member of staff? Prof Hoekstra explains, “Let’s take a fairly controversial topic as an example: the pressure of work. Here, some issues will have to be dealt with by faculty, departments and staff working closely together. In theory, we can still take on a few more people to reduce work load, but that’s be no means always a solution to the problem. And that’s aside from the fact that it's difficult to find good new people in various disciplines. A short while ago, we had so many open posts they covered one and a half sides of A4 paper. So we have to keep working together to come up with different ways of working.”

Job well done

“It was great to see how we managed to talk to everyone in the planning phase”, says Prof Hoekstra. “It’s difficult to create a plan when there are so many parties involved, at some point you have to make choices. So I was a little bit worried that we wouldn’t be able to please everyone. But I think that as a faculty we’ve actually succeeded rather well.”