My first university council meeting

Today was the first meeting of the university council. As you may recall from my earlier post, my colleague Martin Salm and I have been elected into that council. Here is our introductory statement.


Introductory speech, held by Tobias Klein on October 3, 2014 in the University Council on behalf of TiU International

Thank you Mister Chairman,

Dear Rector Magnificus, dear President, dear Secretary General, dear other membes of this council, dear guests on the podium, dear Thijs,

TiU International is a new initiative. We founded TiU International because we realized that one group of employees was not sitting at the table when the formal discussions about the new strategy took place in this council: international employees.

We would like to convince you in the upcoming two years that they have a lot to offer. They have moved to the Netherlands because of Tilburg University’s reputation. Some of them have obtained their PhD’s at universities that are better than ours. And in general they have seen how universities are organized outside of Holland. This makes them, to some extent, more independent thinkers.

My colleague Martin Salm and I will do our best to represent these international employees and their ideas in this council.

For us, it is important that documents are available in English and also that discussions take place in English. Otherwise, the many people on campus who do not speak Dutch—employees and students—will keep feeling excluded. We would like to change that.

But our initiative is not primarily about language and we do not only want to represent international employees. Our initiative is about a mindset that we feel is not represented enough in the discussions. Our initiative is about our university becoming a truly international place and we want to represent Dutch employees with an international mindset just as well. This includes many members of the supporting staff who do a great job every single day.

There was an interesting workshop last week—the Rector and Tjits were there as well—and we agree with the main conclusion. Let me put it like this: Just as you can’t be half pregnant a university can’t be half international. We believe that Tilburg University is in many ways close to becoming such a truly international place, and we believe that this offers a wealth of opportunities. This will not only be to the benefit of the employees, but also to the benefit of our students.

We believe that Tilburg University should be ambitious. Being number one in Holland is a nice goal. But we should aim at being one of the best universities worldwide. And some of our departments are actually already among the leading ones in the world. We should learn from them how we can improve, focus more on what we are good at, and also focus on this when telling prospective students why they should come here so that they can make informed choices.

That is: We believe that true excellence in research and teaching is the way to go. The key players in each academic department should be editors of international journals, keynote speakers at international conferences, great teachers and truly respected senior academics.

We can only continue to be successful if we keep hiring outstanding academics on the international job market; and when those who go the extra mile keep getting rewarded.

We believe that good researchers are often also good teachers.

And we believe that it is the obligation and responsibility of the academics to foster our reputation, raise money, and put together attractive study programs. They need outstanding support for this. Therefore, well-functioning service departments with excellent staff are of vital importance.

This is the beginning of a new yearly cycle for the university council. I want to close by addressing our students: It is one of our key priorities to offer you the best possible education you can get in Holland. We believe in diversity. And we believe that everyone will benefit when also an international student will join us in this council in a year’s time. Please do your best to make this happen.

Thank you for your attention.

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About kleintob

Tobias Klein is an Associate Professor at Tilburg University. He is an economist by training and obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Mannheim, Germany. Before that he visited the University of California at Berkeley Ph.D. program and the Ph.D. program at University College London, respectively for a year. He is passionate about economics, politics, food, and travelling. See http://www.tobiasklein.ws for his professional website.

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