The COVID-19 pandemic and new developments prompted the board to reconsider – together with several committees and in consultation with the TU/e community – the Institutional plan halfway through its running time. Apart from sustainability, three other priorities were added: open science, wellbeing and SQUAD.
No, the university won’t terminate its partnerships with companies from the fossil fuel industry now that the decision has been made to add sustainability as a priority to Strategy 2030 and the Institutional plan 2020-2025, board president Robert-Jan Smits said yesterday in the film theater of the Zwarte Doos. He said so in response to a question whether TU/e is considering that option. Smits: “We did however say to these companies, including Shell, that we only wish to collaborate from now on projects aimed at sustainability.”
The decision to elevate sustainability to a priority has everything to do with the outcomes of the five public meetings that took place over the past period between the Executive Board and staff and students. “It became abundantly clear during those meetings that sustainability is an important issue to our community,” Smits said. “And I’m not necessarily talking about plans to make our own campus and business operations more sustainable, but about our ambition to make greater efforts over the next few years to embed sustainability in our education and research.” Smits also said that practically every student team at TU/e focuses and sustainability-related issues.
Climate researcher Heleen de Coninck, also present during the meeting, said that she hoped that the role played by technology in the field of sustainability will also be taken into account. “Newly developed technologies might actually cause problems as far as the issue of sustainability is concerned.”
The decision to identify staff and student wellbeing as a new priority, was a reason for the audience to ask questions pertaining to this issue. “Did the university already have a plan in place to improve the wellbeing of these groups?” “Won’t the implementation of Challenge-Based Learning (which means that small groups of students will have to receive intensive supervision, ed.) lead to even more work pressure among teachers and, as a consequence, less wellbeing? How will the university prevent that, where will we find extra teachers?” “And how do we reconcile the aim to improve wellbeing with that other aim to improve excellence?”
Human Resource Management director Mariska Brzözek started off by referring to the Employee Experience Survey (EES), which showed that the average job satisfaction score at TU/e is 7.8. A good result, she said, “and the university plans to repeat this survey two or three years from now. We strive for an 8 next time.” Brzözek also said that students receive explicit attention when it comes to wellbeing. An overall policy for both groups is in the making, the HRM director said. “TU/e has a responsibility towards its staff members and students when it comes to wellbeing, but we can’t possibly do everything. Therefore, we need to identity those matters related to wellbeing on which we can exert influence.” At the same time, staff members or students always have someone to talk to if they really get stuck, Brzözek said.
When asked how TU/e expects to recruit extra teachers for Challenge-Based Learning (CBL), rector Frank Baaijens said that the university is currently investigating the role that master’s students and PhD candidates might play, and that extra funding – some of it from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science – for the recruitment of extra teachers has also become available by now. The department of Mechanical Engineering has already yielded some excellent results, Baaijens said.
Ines Lopez Arteaga, dean of the Bachelor College, added that the university also wants to make more use of so-called hybrid teachers. These teachers work at technology companies but also carry out teaching tasks at TU/e on a part-time basis. She also pointed out that “not everything we plan to do with CBL needs to be ready by tomorrow. It’s a process that will take several years, and everyone has to be able to carry it out at their own pace.”
Marjan van Ganzenwinkel of the Services Council urged the board to take the interests of the people into account during the implementation of SQUAD, the operation aimed to boost the quality of TU/e’s support services over the next few years. “Let’s consider them a first priority and make sure that it won’t become a process orientated operation,” she said. Bart Luijten, who most likely will become the director of the new service resulting from the merger between Information Management Services (IMS) and Data Management & Library (DML), said that this operation is in fact all about people, and that it is aimed “to make them connect with one another and to offer them an enjoyably workplace.” Clients and members of the supporting staff will share responsibility for a project in the future – one of SQUAD’s principles – and this, Luijten said, will lead to a sense of pride among both groups when a project is carried out successfully.