“We need to show what we can do! Make our impact visible and collaborate with other organisations”
Ellen van Schoten is the third member of the Executive Board of Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) as of January 1, 2021. Van Schoten has worked for the public sector for most of her career but is now making the switch to the educational sector. “If you can make a difference somewhere, it is at a university like the EUR: involved in society and focused on the impact of research and education.”
You have been appointed as the third member of the Executive Board. What attracted you to this new position and new work environment?
‘I have worked in the public sector for almost my entire career, based on the feeling that this is how I can contribute to our society with my work. What attracted me to the Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is exactly that. The importance of education and research for the Netherlands is enormous! If you can make a difference somewhere, it is at a university like the EUR: involved in society and focused on the impact of research and education. The strategy of the EUR also appeals to me. Focused on impact, making visible what research and higher education mean to a society like ours. Last but not least, Rotterdam also appealed to me and I expect to find an entrepreneurial university that is not afraid to break new ground.’
What dossiers will you be given in your portfolio?
‘I am responsible for the internal business with portfolios such as Finance, Real Estate, HR and IT. But also sustainability and topics like procurement, privacy and information security are a part of my portfolio.’
All members of the board have just started. What’s your take on that?
‘The good news is that two of my colleagues have long careers in higher education and Frank, the rector magnificus, knows this university really well. On top of that, all three of us are very motivated to move our beautiful university forward. And, of course, the organisation around us has been standing for much longer! There are many competent and experienced colleagues with a big heart for the EUR.’
"My dream is that we can make a visible difference: for society, for our students and for our employees."
What challenges do you see lying ahead?
‘These times, with all its uncertainties and working and studying remotely, are a challenge in itself. For all of us, for all the students who now have to miss their physical lessons, and for all the employees who have to do their work from home. It is not easy, especially now that the situation is taking so long. It also raises questions about the future: what will soon be the new normal and how should we organise our facilities accordingly? There are also financial challenges. The funding for higher education has shown a decline in the amount per student for years, and the Van Rijn Commission has added to that trend. For our university, this means less financial resources and a decrease in our assets, while we still want to realize our strategic ambitions. There are also challenges in areas such as procurement, sustainability, privacy and information security.
At the same time, the situation also offers opportunities. We must use our creativity to set up and expand partnerships, to look for partly private funding, and set up our organisation as efficiently as possible. But above all: we need to show what we can do! Make our impact visible and collaborate with other organisations.’
What is your dream for this university and perhaps for the entire higher education system in the Netherlands?
‘My dream is that we can make a visible difference: for society, for our students and for our employees. That we succeed in making education and research have a visible impact on the world around us. For example, that we at EUR can contribute to reducing the dichotomy in our society, which only seems to be growing. That our students are critical, independent people who can play their part in society. That through our collaboration with Erasmus MC, Delft and Leiden, we can gain new insights and knowledge that will enable us to provide answers to the major issues of our time. And that we are an organisation that people like to associate with for study or work.’