3 April 2017 • by Mathieu Heemelaar
Research & counterforce
The General Council has been discussing the research policy with the Executive Board for the past nine months, but has not yet reached agreement. The General Council has therefore voted against the Strategic Research Policy for the second time. Among the Staff and Student Councils, this is referred to as a dispute. This has happened around four times over the past 15 years and is not a problem in itself, as I have learned from experience. We agree to disagree. Besides, there is only one aspect we are unable to agree on, while the discussions are positive on all other fronts. A third party (The National Arbitration Board) has been called in to help resolve the dispute. However, the Board of Trustees first wants to attempt to reach agreement through mediation.
I’ve spent my weekends and evenings these past months writing the fifth edition of my book Seksualiteit, intimiteit en hulpverlening (Sexuality, Intimacy and Support). I very much enjoy doing these updates every four years. I get to spend six months studying scientific articles, reports and other publications in order to update my book. Once again, I have a mountain of interesting research reports to go through. What educator or parent would not be interested in learning about new considerations in raising today’s children in response to the increased use of the Internet by young people (such as the dangers of sexting)? In 2017, what is the best way to offer sexual education to young people and teach them about relationships?
I do my writing during my time off. The book is mandatory for my degree programme and on the curriculum of another 23 other degree programmes in the country (Social Educational Care, Educational Theory, Social Work and Social Services and Social Work). There are numerous lecturers in my faculty, as well as in other faculties, who write textbooks alongside their daily work. All of us aim to contribute to improving the education and image of The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Students also find it interesting and motivating to be taught by the author of a compulsory textbook, not to mention that this also benefits the author. I derive dozens of cases from the practical experiences of the students and research the effectiveness of the assignments included in the book. After all, students of pedagogical, social welfare and nursing degree programmes not only have to know a great deal about sexuality, but professional practice also requires that you can discuss matters with clients and colleagues on a professional level.
Besides, I love doing research. Yet I agree with the General Council that the research policy presented to the Council by the Executive Board is not good enough. The Council believes that the education offered will not sufficiently benefit from this policy. Research conducted at a university of applied sciences should primarily serve the interest of the education (and, in doing so, will benefit the profession). By the education I literally mean the direct transfer of knowledge to the students by the heads and members of research groups during lectures. The demands that the policy makes of the heads of research groups and senior lecturers regarding their contribution to the education are far too limited. A major concern for the General Council is that the Executive Board wants to expand the number of research groups considerably. This would mean diverting a large number of lecturers (scales 12 and 13) from their educational tasks. The General Council does not begrudge them spending some of their time (one or two days a week) working on research as a member of a research team. But we are concerned that the proposed ‘volume’ (doubling) will come at the expense of the education of our students. The General Council would like the best lecturers (senior lecturers) to spend as much time in front of a class as possible. We do not want to be a research university, where some lecturers engage exclusively in research activities.
When the research groups were introduced throughout THUAS, the Staff and Student Councils expressed the explicit desire for lecturers to first and foremost excel at teaching, that their preference would be to educate first-year students and, in doing so, that they would inspire and convey a passion for the subject to students. In this document, we are further removed from that desire than ever. That is why no agreement has been reached. The General Council does not take this lightly and we believe that this is an important issue for the entire school.