Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Jeroen Touwen has started his second term as Vice-Dean: ‘We’re in an upward trend’

Jeroen Touwen has been reappointed as Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Humanities from 1 January. ‘The Faculty Board’s role is to serve the organisation: we try to manage the University as effectively as possible with the available resources, so that research and education can flourish.’

Jeroen Touwen
Jeroen Touwen

Why did you decide to do a second term?

‘Working as a member of the Faculty Board is useful and requires a certain kind of skill. I’ve learned a lot over the past three years and I like doing it. So I’m driven to continue for a while. And I feel a positive energy around the Faculty of Humanities: I speak to many colleagues who enjoy their work and are highly dedicated. Although the heavy workload means it might not feel like it yet, we’re actually in an upward trend: we’re receiving extra funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (sector funds, start-up and incentive grants), allowing us to appoint dozens of lecturers. We’re also going to introduce a sabbatical arrangement. Teaching staff will then be given a research semester, when they can focus entirely on their research.’

How do you look back on the past three years? What are you proud of, and what would you rather have done differently, on reflection?

‘I’m especially proud of the tremendous resilience during Covid. All that working from home and giving lectures via Kaltura... We all worked together to achieve an excellent outcome. However, I am happy that we can now lecture on campus again, in direct contact with the students. In retrospect, we should perhaps have created more informal digital interactions between home-working colleagues, for instance in gather.town, where you can have online drinks with a large group. We could also have done that more with students, although ultimately they themselves came up with much more creative (online) solutions than we did!’

What do you want to achieve in the coming years?

‘There are still all kinds of issues we want to move forward with. For example, the Faculty Board will continue with the Programme Standards project. Another focus is to improve communication, as we also explain in the Faculty Strategic Plan.’

‘First, we want to communicate better with students about their choices, their curriculum and how it connects with the labour market, and about their well-being. Many students of the current generation are perfectionists and make high demands on themselves or their career opportunities. I hope we can take pressure off students by helping them to reflect more realistically on their studies and their future. We’ve therefore introduced Bram Hoonhout’s What’s Next? pilot in eight study programmes, so that students can learn to look realistically at their future. We also have a module of the Asset H project, aimed at helping students to realise more clearly how their future employers will appreciate what they’ve done.’

‘Second, we need to communicate better with new teaching staff. Academics are often perfectionists too, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the organisation ought to state clearly what’s expected of them. Sometimes lecturers are so dedicated to their students that they sacrifice all their free time to giving feedback, correcting assignments and answering emails. We also have many lecturers who come from abroad and need to get used to how Dutch universities work. This requires our ongoing attention. Of course, we have two excellent teaching coaches for young lecturers, but managers also have a role to play here. We’re therefore in constant discussion with the institutes about finding the best approach to this.’

‘And as well, of course, we have ChatGPT. How we deal with this is also very interesting from the academic perspective: it symbolises the role of artificial intelligence in modern society.’

Do you intend to continue combining your position as Vice-Dean with teaching and research duties?

‘Yes, certainly. I still teach the first-year Economics and Social History course together with Marlou Schrover, and I publish on the history of labour relations in the twentieth century. I’m working on environmental history as well. It’s difficult to combine with Faculty Board work, but it’s also invigorating. Academic literature provides a good counterbalance to all those meeting documents.’

This website uses cookies.  More information.