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A call about: the Strategic Plan

In 2021, more than 2,600 students and staff members shared their ideas for Leiden University and the Strategic Plan for the coming years, under the banner of LDN>>>FWD. What will be the guiding principle for taking decisions? Which aspects will be emphasised? The last consultations have now been concluded and the plan will be discussed with the University Council and the Board of Governors in December. We look back on the process with Regina Stoutjesdijk, policy advisor for Strategy and Academic Affairs.

Regina, what an extensive process around the creation of the plan! What part did you play?

As a member of the Strategic Plan core team, I was involved in all the consultations. And I wielded the pen: I wrote the paper, in close collaboration with the Executive Board of course. 

Wow! That must have been quite a task!

It was. But it was also really interesting and challenging. I spent every day of the last few months working on the future of the University. It was absolutely inspiring to discuss the subject with a great many different people. I did my best to listen as attentively as possible to what people find important and to be true to that, together with the Executive Board. 

Why consultations at all?

The Strategic Plan is defining for the University's future. We feel it's important that the basic premises be supported by the whole organisation. Not only that, but there is a great deal of expertise and valuable knowledge present in our University and we wanted to make the best use of it. That involved not only our teaching and research but also the challenges our organisation will face. By bringing together so many perspectives, you can finally extract the core themes that are important and to which everyone can commit. After each round of consultations, I had to rewrite, remove and update, but that's all part of the process. And it resulted in the plan becoming better every step of the way. 

Who was consulted?

Before the summer, we consulted large groups of students and staff through online dialogues and meetings. On the basis of those consultations, we drew up a 'rough sketch' that we then presented again after the summer. For that presentation, we organised meetings with external stakeholders and critical friends and of course, our own students and staff once more. We also joined in many existing meetings of groups such as Leiden Teachers' Academy, Young Academy Leiden and the staff of our expertise centres. That gave us an in-depth perspective. And the University Council was involved in the entire process. 

The Executive Board was present at almost all the meetings, so that they didn't have to be dependent on reporting but were able to hear the feedback firsthand. It was gratifying to see that people also took the initiative themselves, getting in touch to provide input or to respond to discussions being held in their own environment. You could see that a lot of people were actively thinking about what certain themes meant to them.

What is your most lasting memory of the process?

The fact that many colleagues and students really enjoyed being involved. They were absolutely committed, even if it concerned topics outside their own daily field of practice. It energised people, reflecting and thinking ahead. And the theme of the staff workload was also often mentioned. By exchanging ideas on how we might do things better, we also came up with ideas on how to reduce the workload. 

Another thing I'm really happy about is that thanks to the consultations, we were able to get the plan itself more and more focused, so that the content is now well-balanced. For example, the importance of our societal contribution was often discussed, as was the idea of remaining true to the value of free and independent research and the high quality of our education. 

So you're finished writing now. When do we get to see the definitive plan? 

The Executive Board will hold formal discussions about the plan with the University Council and the Board of Governors early in December. When the decision-making process has been concluded, the Executive Board will present the Strategic Plan during the Dies Natalis on 8 February 2022. Not that we will then be finished with the strategy. That's only the beginning! There are ambitions and lines of action determined in the plan, but we will be coordinating how to achieve these ambitions in the coming years. 

Will you be consulting the organisation again?

In that phase, it's no longer about consulting but more about translating the plan into 'how, when and who'. And of course it’s important to involve students and staff in that phase too. We will also be keeping staff and students and other parties informed about our progress in the coming years, through regular communications and by raising the visibility of ongoing activities and initiatives. 

A call about

There is a lot happening within Leiden University. The websites are filled with news on a daily basis. In the section 'A call about' we ask one of our employees to tell us more about a relevant and topical subject within the university. The answers give you more insight into the facts, but above all give you more personal background information. What was fun or frustrating? What was remarkable? What was good and what was bad? You can read all about it in 'A call about'.

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