Law, Economics and Governance
The Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance (REBO) is a faculty that stands firmly at the heart of society and focuses on the issues that affect society as a whole. With law, economics and governance, we have a strong in-house combination of academic disciplines which complement and reinforce one another. Our mission is to conduct high-quality research into social issues; to educate people so they can contribute to addressing those issues; and, in this way, to generate social impact. We contribute substantively to sustainable development, to building a just society and to shaping its institutions. Those who feel a duty in this area, and who learn and work based on public values such as integrity, inclusiveness, accessibility and equality will feel at home in our faculty.
Versatile and socially engaged
In the recent period, we have achieved a great deal with regard to our education, research and impact. We have also grown stronger as an organisation, thanks in part to the realisation of the Faculty Service Organisation (FSO). For the upcoming period, we are committed to the further implementation of what we have begun and to strengthening our faculty profile. ‘Connection and balance’, the title of our previous Strategic Plan, will remain an important guiding principle in that regard.
‘Connection and balance’ will remain an important guiding principle in that regard.
Connection here refers to the link between education, research and impact, so that our domains are optimally aligned to one another and reinforce one another's efforts. It means connections between employees (both academic and support staff) that cut across the lines separating departments, so that we may offer professional and effective support for education, research and impact. It is the connection to the university-wide strategic themes – particularly Institutions for Open Societies, Pathways to Sustainability and Dynamics of Youth – which allows more and more multidisciplinary collaboration to emerge with regard to themes that are relevant to ensuring the structure of our society is both sustainable and just. It is our connection to public, private and social partners outside the university, which make it possible (for instance) to give students the right tools for the Dutch and international job markets and to strengthen the ties with our alumni. And lastly, a thematic connection to partners in and outside the faculty, including via the interfaculty Utrecht Centre for Global Challenges (UGlobe). UGlobe brings together people from different disciplines in order to study social challenges such as climate change, increasing inequality, poverty, conflicts and human rights issues, and to contribute to innovative solutions to these problems.
We are seeking the right balance with regard to new digital forms of studying, conducting research and teaching.
At the same time, we take care to ensure a proper balance between disciplinary and multidisciplinary approaches to work in our education research and impact. We are also seeking the right balance with regard to new digital forms of studying, conducting research and teaching. Together with the study associations, we place a high value on a lively and visible community of students and employees. We also strive to ensure a diverse group of students and staff members, in the broadest sense of the word and in all units of the organisation. Through a diverse faculty population, we want to create communities of work and study in which everyone can feel at home. Another aspect we keep in mind is a healthy work-life balance among students and employees and, to that end, we will continue actively looking for ways to reduce workload both in and outside the faculty. This might, for instance, mean organising the education in a different manner or setting out more differentiated career paths.
Through a diverse faculty population, we want to create communities of work and study in which everyone can feel at home.
We want to play a meaningful role in disciplinary and multidisciplinary research. The goal in this regard is to deploy in-depth and frequently disciplinary knowledge in a meaningful way to address multidisciplinary issues, such as through our involvement with the strategic themes. In this way, we contribute to realising a more just and sustainable structure for our society and a different perspective on widespread prosperity. The developments in connection with Open Science present important challenges. The discussions of those challenges call for a reorientation with regard to the significance of science and place new demands on our system of recognition and reward.
We see opportunities in the area of education as well. Building on the strength of our current, programmes, we wish to strengthen our focus on the social profile of our degree programmes and to invest in new teaching methods and models, including via the REBO Skills Academy. Community Engaged Learning (CEL) is in keeping with the ambitions of our faculty and should rightfully be more strongly embedded in our curriculum. This also applies to the entrepreneurial education with which we hope to further anchor and expand our traditionally strong position within Utrecht University. In addition, we are working to further expand our range of Professional Education programmes, partly in relation to social partners and stakeholders. In this regard, too, we are seeking out connection: to society, with professionals, with new knowledge domains and with new teaching concepts.
An open, resilient and innovative community
REBO stands for a strong academic community of students and employees in which we take care of one another. REBO also stands for a safe and inclusive environment in which to work and study. But none of this happens automatically. A more diverse and international population of students and employees, for instance, will place new demands on our communication and require us to effectively deploy our intercultural skills. An open, resilient and innovative community also means being able to cope with differences and diverse perspectives, and giving one another space. We strive to realise a more diverse student and employee intake, such as by eliminating potential obstacles. A more diverse intake will also require that we devote attention to the structure and content of our educational curriculum and ensure international staff and students receive a warm welcome within the Utrecht faculty community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the importance of encounters and of personal contact.
Accommodations play a strong facilitating role in this context. Good shared accommodations for staff and students reinforces the sense of community within departments and faculties and encourages (potentially multidisciplinary) collaboration. The COVID-19 pandemic has further underscored the importance of encounters and of personal contact. When a portion of the education or consultation takes place online, we must put additional and more explicit effort into organising contact. This pertains to contact between first-year and other students via the student mentors and tutors, as well as that between employees (both academic staff and administrative and support staff). Managers have an important role in this regard, which is why the faculty is encouraging leadership development through means such as participation in university-wide programmes and on-the-job coaching. The rich culture of student association life within the REBO faculty forges connections between students and their peers, their programmes and the faculty. The ultimate goal is to achieve an agile and innovative organisation in which highly-engaged students, employees (academic and administrative/support staff) and alumni can easily interact and work together toward our shared ambitions: conducting high-quality research, educating people to become socially-involved and versatile professionals and generating impact.
Multidisciplinary collaboration within the primary processes and with partners places new demands on administrators, operational managers and support staff. We are working to further strengthen the administrative consultation structure, clarify the decision-making processes and improve the information provision to administrators/board members. We are also strengthening cooperation in the operational management and support, both within REBO and between REBO and other divisions of the university. In concrete terms, we are exploring possibilities for a more intensive partnerships in the city centre with the Faculty of Humanities, such as with regard to research support provided by the Research Support Office (RSO) and in the areas of accommodations, facilities, IT and Professional Education. The Strategic Accommodations Plan offers opportunities in this regard, on which we hope to capitalise.
Digitisation is becoming increasingly standard across all facets of the organisation. It is inherently part of the educational curricula, it is a major theme in our research and it affects all aspects of our operational management. The faculty is working to realise a user-oriented, reliable and secure IT infrastructure which will lighten and enrich the workload and studies of students and employees.
The faculty is working to realise a user-oriented, reliable and secure IT infrastructure which will lighten and enrich the workload and studies of students and employees.
Education for a better future
In the REBO Faculty, we educate students who will later find jobs as executives, politicians, entrepreneurs, corporate or government lawyers, managers and financial managers, solicitors, judges and so on. We are, in short, educating the advisers and decision-makers of tomorrow. This creates certain expectations in terms of our education. Our ambition is to offer students disciplinary and multidisciplinary education and train them to be socially engaged and versatile academic professionals who are ready for the challenges of an ever-changing job market.
We are educating the advisers and decision-makers of tomorrow.
An ambition such as this requires state of the art curricula, innovative teaching methods and an organisation that supports lecturers to those ends. At the same, continuous attention to the well-being of students is needed as well. The combination of a relatively brief study duration and the (real or perceived) necessity of entering the job market with a sufficiently enriched Curriculum vitae has resulted in an increase in perceived pressure to succeed. For REBO, this specific combination of factors is cause for working toward a transparent, flexible and multifaceted curriculum within the educational portfolio, and to strive to strengthen and enrich the content and reinforce the position of lecturers. In addition, we strive to strengthen our position with regard to Community Engaged Learning (CEL), Entrepreneurial education and Professional Education (OvP).
Transparent, flexible and multifaceted curriculum
The regular education within the faculty has a strong disciplinary basis, owing in part to the intrinsically distinct nature of the disciplines and specific national requirements. At the same time, great attention is paid to multidisciplinary education, for instance in the form of minors, certain Master's programmes and within the honours education. In the coming period, we intend to continue our efforts to promote transparency, flexibility and accessibility in our educational programmes, so that it will become easier for individual students to pursue interdisciplinary studies. In this way, we are responding to the increased importance of multidisciplinary knowledge and skills. Put more concretely, we want to contribute to the development of interdisciplinary education for the free elective space (minors, electives), multidisciplinary Master's education and education that is connected to the strategic themes. We will also begin work on the faculty-specific implementation of the new university-wide vision on Honours education. As we update our degree programmes, we are cooperating with other faculties and disciplines, such as Humanities (PPE, etc.), Social sciences (geography, sociology, etc.) and the Sciences (mathematics, complex systems and data science, etc.).
Reinforcing and enriching the content
Students place a high value on a solid connection between academic education and real-world practice in society. This is also in keeping with the current expectations that employers and society have where professionals are concerned. Aligned to the ambition of Utrecht University, we are devoting emphatic and structural attention to major societal themes – including those in connection with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – within our educational programmes. And by more strongly embedding Community Engaged Learning (CEL), we want to provide students with opportunities to gauge their knowledge against societal practice and, conversely, to use that practice to enrich their knowledge. Teaching methods such as CEL and work placements also make the curriculum more inclusive thanks to the stronger involvement with society and/or the local community. In this way, these methods contribute to helping a diverse student population feel at home at REBO.
We are investing in the development of a REBO Skills Academy.
An innovative and rich curriculum also includes space for skills training, in which the focus is less on knowledge and more on the insights, competencies and attitudes that are needed in order to function successfully in the modern knowledge society. We are investing in the development of a REBO Skills Academy. This will entail an integrated range of skills training programmes for all REBO students. A portion of these programmes will be discipline-specific and part of the regular education. In addition, we will develop new faculty-wide training options in the form of extracurricular course modules on topics such as reflective and operational digital skills.
Strengthening the position of lecturers
Finally, we will strengthen our education by improving the position of lecturers. We wish to realise temporary appointments that are more robust, in terms of both content and duration, and are exploring the best way to do so within degree programmes characterised by a large number of students and strongly fluctuating enrolment. In more general terms, we wish to enhance the professional development and academic career prospects of assistant professors, associate professors and lecturers, while ensuring we do not lose sight of the organisational interest and the need to manage workload. After all: a cohesive and experienced team is exceptionally capable of creating a sense of calm in an often dynamic educational setting.
Community Engaged Learning, Entrepreneurial Education and Professional Education
REBO has years of experience with Community Engaged Learning (CEL), in which students work with social partners in order to build knowledge. We want to more broadly embed this teaching method in our curricula and to contribute to the development and increased sustainability of CEL at Utrecht University. In addition, our faculty has a strong tradition of providing entrepreneurial education and will continue to promote the importance of such programmes, both within Utrecht University and in the alliance with Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research and University Medical Centre Utrecht. Entrepreneurial skills are crucial to arriving at new solutions based on the most up-to-date knowledge. We will embed these skills more effectively in our education, such as through the REBO Skills Academy. In addition, we are working to further expand our Professional Education, partly in relation to social partners and stakeholders. In specific terms, we will pursue collaboration with the Faculty of Humanities and the strategic theme of Institutions for Open Societies by appointing a ‘city centre director’ who will facilitate and promote the further expansion of our education.
Impact of research and innovation
Conducting high-quality, fundamental research and publishing it in peer-reviewed journals is a vital aspect of our existence as a university. Without this, a university simply cannot survive. Yet at the same time, we acknowledge – in the movement toward Open Science – that knowledge is itself a public resource, one that rightly must be shared. The motto ‘rigour meets relevance’ means that we are always in search of meaningful forms of knowledge sharing and knowledge co-creation: sometimes in cooperation with other scientific partners and sometimes with stakeholders in society.
We intend to continue our intensive collaboration with the UU strategic themes and focus areas.
A strong disciplinary basis is essential and is the foundation which supports our education and research. On the other hand, the real world cannot always be divided neatly along disciplinary lines. Multidisciplinary research is therefore a powerful tool for contributing to the resolution of complex social issues. We therefore intend to continue our intensive collaboration with the UU strategic themes and focus areas, with regard to which Utrecht University will further strengthen its multidisciplinary collaboration through the alliance with Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research and University Medical Centre Utrecht and by other means. We in the REBO Faculty participate in projects related to sustainability, and to the Circular Economy, Healthy Urban Living and Sport & Society in particular. Multidisciplinarity is also in evidence within our own disciplines, such as in the development of Empirical Legal Studies within the Law faculty's sector plan cluster. We will naturally also continue to participate in international consortia involving European and non-European partners, in order to strengthen both disciplinary and multidisciplinary research.
Generating social impact is a signature characteristic of our academic profile.
Generating social impact is a signature characteristic of our academic profile, based on the conviction that social partnerships give meaning to knowledge and allow it to create a ripple effect. That means we maintain a visible impact agenda and realise tangible results, partly in relation to varying types of partners and stakeholders. Specifically, this refers to activities such as the Dean's dinner and the REBO Impact Night. We reward many different kinds of impact and are constantly in search of new kinds; we encourage impact activities both large and small. In doing so, we involve our students and study associations – for instance, in the organisation of Impact Cafés.
The starting point of a career in academia is securing an appointment as a PhD candidate. In recent years, we have worked to improve the quality assurance procedures in connection with PhD tracks, such as via the Teaching & Supervision Agreement, the four-eyes principle, job-market orientation and a stronger emphasis on internationalisation. A PhD course on academic integrity will be introduced for incoming PhD candidates. With regard to the future, the primary concern is monitoring of the established agreements and standardisation of these where possible. The workload and well-being of PhD candidates is an ongoing area of concern. Together with the PhD council, we are working to strengthen the REBO PhD community and prevent drop-outs. It is vital that we continue to invest in PhD spots (including in the Research Masters). The current financial scope for doing so is primarily the result of good scores in the indirect funding and contract-based research funding and – specifically for the Law department – the resources from the sector plan. It is important that this funding be sustained at the same level, now and in future. That will require continuous attention from scientists and pro-active support from parties including the Research Support Office.
Even after completing their PhD, employees must be given scope for personal and professional development, including time for pioneering or experimental activities. But this will not happen on its own. More than ever, the university exists as part of a 24-hour economy that demands never-ending availability from us all. The workload and pressure to succeed on employees has been a heavy burden for quite some time. Both the faculty and the individual departments will make every effort to explore and implement effective solutions to this complex problem. This, in combination with the development of Open Science, will affect the staffing policy as well. In the years ahead, we will further refine our HR model, MERIT, and work towards a more effective balance between the various components: Management, Education, Research, Impact and Team Spirit. Employees will have more diverse assigned tasks and a wider range of career paths, in keeping with the new forms of recognition and reward. In addition to individual research and teaching performance, greater emphasis will be placed on team and impact-related achievements.