Is the RUG really committed to internationalization?
Overall, international staff remain skeptical about how serious the RUG really is about internationalization beyond the buzzword. The fact that most positions have long been held by Dutch professors makes it difficult for international staff to find their way in – it also makes it harder for the RUG to retain them.
Although they all chose to work here, many staff members didn’t even know the RUG existed before being recruited to work here. ‘Most participants hadn’t heard of the University of Groningen’, according to the memo.
Good work environment
The University also downplays its strengths, in particular ‘the fairly high level of English proficiency among Dutch people, not just within the University, but in the city of Groningen’. The Netherlands in general is seen as a very good work environment, but one point of criticism shared by many staff was within the university.
The internationals reported being continually referred to the RUG website – where information is still hard to find – rather than being helped in person at dedicated help desks. If they were helped at all, many felt that personnel were not well-informed and didn’t put enough effort into directing staff members to someone who could actually help.
Some staff also reported not knowing where to go with questions about how university programmes like ProgRESS and Nestor work. In response, HR has proposed to better inform incoming staff about technical support – but only if they use a PC. Many said that the University’s lack of support for Apple products is an issue.
Finding accommodation was a consistent problem, but the best way seemed to be using Connect International’s relocation services, even though it is an expense that isn’t always reimbursed by their faculties. PhDs, however, typically rely on the Housing Office to find a room, but said the website is inadequate and the staff there is not always very helpful.
Another persistent issue was a lack of support for the partners of international staff members. ‘Partner support is one of the most important parts of internationalisation, but it’s also one of the most difficult’, says Lydia Hollander, one of the HR personnel responsible for the report. That means ‘not just paid work for the partner, but also social integration.’
While resources do exist, ‘not everyone was aware that this support was available.’
But it was language policy that elicited the most discussion. The staff recognize that English is the operating language in the academic world, and that means all information on the RUG website should be available in English. The level of English writing proficiency of their Dutch colleagues also needs some work. On the other hand, ‘the present range of Dutch courses offered by the Language Centre was described as inadequate, especially for staff needing to teach in Dutch.’
The results of the interviews will shape future HR policies across the university. On Friday, the heads of the HR departments of each faculty will meet to go over the findings to begin implementing them on their own terms.