Regulations for protecting and enabling knowledge institutions. That was the call of Beatrice de Graaf, Professor at Utrecht University and Chair of the National Research Agenda (‘Nationale Wetenschapsagenda’), during the Opening of the Academic Year of Erasmus University Rotterdam on Monday, August 31st 2015. According to her, the diversity and richness of academic life are at stake now that Bildung at universities is increasingly troubled by the call for applied research.
In her <media 2118349>guest lecture</media>, De Graaf said that ‘utilitarianism in its crude economistic form is becoming the dominant discourse’ in society as well as at universities. This is the idea of the university as a place of Bildung, with discussions on norms, values, ethics and ideals. “Scholars and universities are being pushed to the assembly line, pressed to produce preconceived (golden) eggs. And it is exactly this imbalance that is troubling.” According to De Graaf the diversity and richness of academic life are at stake.
The co-chair of the NWA advocated the restoration of balance between applied research and Bildung, also a goal of the Science Agenda itself. This balance can be achieved, amongst others, by encouraging talent, more PhD positions on faculties (rather than from major research programs), more (and more wide spread) money for research and sabbaticals for researchers. They also want a greater appreciation for education and valorisation. “If anything, this lecture is a plea for regulations protecting and enabling our knowledgeable, informed, well-staffed, and knowledge-seeking communities –laboratories, research and development departments and universities alike (as heterogeneous, complex and multiple as they may be).”
In his speech <media 2118343>'Crossing Boundaries' </media>Rector Magnificus Professor Huibert Pols stressed the importance for scholars and universities to make connections, with other scholars and universities and also within the own community. “I would like scientists to connect with each other – beyond those walls that divide our University’s different faculties and departments. As scientists, we should not isolate ourselves within our research agendas and our own expertise. Instead, we must use our disciplinary knowledge as a pillar we can stand on to see beyond the known horizons. That’s the only way you can keep track of what other colleagues are doing, and remain visible to others, including those working outside our own field.” On the occasion of the Dutch Science Agenda he also called on the government to support the ambitions in this area with money.
President Pauline van der Meer Mohr also <media 2118375>pleaded</media> for significant investments in science. While waiting for the funding from the Strategic Agenda of Minister Bussemaker, Erasmus University will invest 6 million euros annually in research and education over the next three years from its own strategic reserves. Van der Meer Mohr announced a new endowment fund, a partnership between Erasmus University and Erasmus Trustfonds.
In addition, several academic awards were awarded. The Opening of the Academic Year was followed by the official opening of Polak Building, the new multifunctional educational building on the campus of the Erasmus University.
Video, speeches and photos: www.eur.nl/opening.