“We won't be running an R&D department for industry, will we?”

The tour of dialogue sessions that the Executive Board has been making across the campus this month is coming to an end. On Tuesday in the IPO building, Board President Jan Mengelers and Rector Magnificus Frank Baaijens met with a well-prepared audience. The lounge was full of employees, mainly those of the Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, and they asked a stream of questions.

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Frank Baaijens opened with the highlights of the document that represents the '50 percent version' of the search for TU/e’s strategy for 2030. This was perhaps unnecessary since those present had done their homework, read the entire document and thought of questions. These questions were then discussed thematically, and the Rector answered them as best he could.

Anna Wieczorek, employed at the Technology, Innovation & Society (TIS) group, got the ball rolling and remarked that she and several of her colleagues were shocked by the way the word 'innovation' is used. Because new technology has both technical and social aspects to it, she hoped that in writing the Strategy 2030 the Executive Board wouldn't forget that TU/e offers social science. “How can we help the Department of Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences to shape this vision?”

Krist Vaesen, employed at Philosophy and Ethics, remarked that heavy emphasis was placed on cooperation with industry. “We aren't planning on running an R&D department for companies, are we? That would make it difficult to do long-term research.”

Other problems raised by those present touched on issues such as the academic training students receive, and the profile required of academic staff. Frank Baaijens sighed and casually remarked that it felt like a dissertation and said that it wouldn't be possible to give an answer to every question.

More cooperation

“Does our academic staff comprise the right people to meet society's challenge?” Baaijens answered with a cautious 'yes', and added that TU/e will however have to cooperate with other universities and local hospitals. This was the only question that drew Jan Mengelers out of his role as listener. “I would like to add that we must start working much more closely with partners like Utrecht University. Doing everything ourselves here in Eindhoven is no longer a realistic option.”

A question that Baaijens believes is being voiced at every department concerns the freedom of choice enjoyed by students. “Can our students devise a learning pathway of their own that is compatible with our objectives?” Baaijens mused on a concrete example of his own concerning a course: “May a student take her calculus course at both Eindhoven and Cambridge?” To his mind, where choices like this need to be made, very good coaching must be offered. He asked Lex Lemmens, the Dean of the Bachelor College, for this thoughts on the matter. Lemmens: “Students must learn to take responsibility for their own learning, if need be step by step.” Baaijens added: “Students find this really difficult, and we still have to learn how we can teach them to do so.”

To close, as planned Board President Mengelers made some observations of his own: “I am pleased to be here, I've found it difficult not to join in the discussion, but fortunately Frank has the same vision as I do. We have spent nine months preparing this 50 percent version; we can produce the second half more quickly. If all goes to plan, we'll have a complete and readable document by June.” That document will be presented at the opening of the new academic year.

The last dialogue session in this series will be held today, February 28, in MetaForum in the Eurandom lounge on the fourth floor, from 12.15 to 13.45 hrs

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