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Executive Board column: A look back at the strategic conference

Our annual strategic conference was held this year on 15 and 16 June in Soesterberg, and has now become a tradition at our university. Around a hundred colleagues, including Faculty Boards, Scientific Directors, directors of expertise centres and our Administration and Central Services department, the participation bodies and student assessors, all assemble for a day and a half, away from the hustle and bustle of every day, to exchange ideas with one another on issues that are important for the university.

These days are an opportunity for us, as administrators of our university, to take time out from our daily routines to reflect on how we are performing. This year we looked primarily at two themes from our strategic plan: internationalisation and room for innovation.

In this column Annetje Ottow, Hester Bijl and Martijn Ridderbos give a peek behind the scenes at the Executive Board of Leiden University. What does their work involve? What makes them enthusiastic? What challenges do they face? Building a healthy and engaged learning community begins with sharing what you are up to. This time it’s Martijn Ridderbos' turn.


Both these themes are currently high on the agenda. Even while we were meeting, the House of Representatives was debating the influx of international students into higher education, and whether there should be a limit to this influx. The debate in The Hague helped us in Soesterberg to get the right questions on the table and explore them in depth. We talked about the important role of international students and staff in the future development of the university.

International students are a valuable element in our classrooms and in our student community.

As Hester Bijl indicated in her Executive Board column last September, we believe there is enormous added value in the presence of international students. They are a valuable element in our classrooms and in our student community. We do our best to give them a warm welcome, including by ensuring that housing corporations also make accommodation available for international students. Nonetheless, in the light of the current national debate, there is a sense of fear among our international students and staff that they may no longer be welcome at the university. This is naturally not the intention, and we are doing our utmost to eliminate this feeling.

As well as discussing current policies, our strategic conference also offers room for new ideas and for putting existing ideas into a more concrete form. We debated, for example, the university’s international travel policy. Many of our researchers have to make intercontinental trips, where the train is not a solution, but how can we then contribute to our ambitions in the area of sustainability? One possible solution put forward was to set a maximum amount of CO2 that the faculties are permitted to emit.

Room for innovation

I was happy that on the second day of the strategic conference we focused on the ‘Room for innovation’ programme, one of the key ambitions from our institutional plan. We discussed a wide range of ideas and initiatives; for example, a modification to the SAP Human Resources system that will help us to work both more smartly and more simply. I will now start working further with the findings from the second day and the other outcomes of the strategic conference. After the summer, I will tell you in a subsequent column about our action plans for the new academic year.

Does this strike a chord or would you like to share any insights or experiences relating to this column? If so, send us an email at nieuws@leidenuniv.nl

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