ReThink looking for solutions

Several members of ReThink RUG met last week to discuss and suggest solutions for what they identify as major problems facing the university. The solutions will be included in the new ReThink letter which should be published soon.

Casper Albers, associate professor of statistics, was in charge of the meeting which was held in the Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences. The meeting was intended for FBSS staff, but according to Albers, due to an overloaded schedule, only eight academics out of roughly 20 in the faculty who signed the original ReThink RUG letter were able to attend. In total, 151 staff members have co-signed it.

Applying for grants

The small group discussed several broad subjects that should be reformed, such as applying for grants. Academics are called upon to write a proposal in order to take part in the annual national rounds to obtain research funding, but the competition is quite high: roughly one out of six candidates who applies goes on to receive funding.

The members of ReThink want to propose that universities become exclusively responsible for financial contributions in order to ensure that a variety of academics receive grants, rather than solely those with excellent writing skills.

‘This way, only people who are actually working will receive funding and not those who just write good proposals. This will save both time and money and, in fact, the amount of money dedicated to the direct process of science will be bigger,’ says Albers.

Evaluation system

Another issue the group drew attention to was the current university evaluation system. Presently, individual performance is assessed based on excelling in teaching, obtaining external funding and conducting research. An instructor is expected to perform well in every aspect in order to improve their rating within the university.

ReThink suggests a group evaluation as an alternative. Groups composed of three academics, who may each perform better at one of the given criteria, could be more effective.

Institutionalized distrust

The amount of time teachers spend being evaluated and assessed is another cause for concern to the group. The rationale behind this system is to make sure that only qualified members fulfill certain positions, especially when it comes to teaching. ‘You take more time to defend yourself than actually to work. It takes a lot of effort and money to write a portfolio to justify that you can indeed teach’, Albers says.

Instead, the university should instate supervisors who will be in contact with the academics and evaluate their performance constantly in order to ensure that qualified academics can maintain their position in the university.

On 9 June, ReThink RUG will meet with the university board of directors to negotiate further action regarding these proposed changes.