Academic Forum

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Rooted in Society

geplaatst: 01-06-2011

Rooted in Society

Highly and low educated people in the Netherlands more and more live next to each other. That is the conclusion of the recently published survey of the Raad voor Maatschappelijke Ontwikkeling. Another trend we can observe is, that the relationships of power are not that obvious anymore, not least because everybody can be closely associated with society through the current means of communication - remember the encouragement of the RIVM for vaccination. Authority has to be earned more than before. For professors as the representatives of the highly educated people par excellence, the message seams clear: a book, article or survey is not enough anymore; you have to go on the road and make the link to society. Anno 2011 the adage is: communication and valorization.

For the university, visibility in the media is an important aspect of valorization. Therefore, it is a good development that appearance in the media is rewarded and encouraged by the 'Mediatop' of the university. Scientists can and have to give evidence based interpretation to actual issues in society in the media. That implies that they have to see themselves and their work within a larger context. The duo of education and research should become a triplet by adding the aspect of valorization or social service. That is the way Tilburg University can put itself in the picture, like it also does with 'Me Judice' and the 'Tilburg University Society' (UvT Sociƫteit). That she already is successful shows the grant of 25 million Euros she got as part of the national 'Valorization program' together with four other universities.

The current generation of students can join in that development. They are the future leaders of our society. And what makes a true leader? It is not only about charisma, knowledge and giving guidance by inspiring people. You additionally need the trust of other people that you always have the common good in mind as the main thing. The coming generation of young leaders can take advantage of this insight that knowledge is one thing, but that dealing with that knowledge is just as important. It is, in fact, a combination of knowledge and conscience. When you get your master degree that means you will probably do important work for society. And that implies a responsibility. A good leader embodies the combination of both being analytically very good and having much social IQ: secluding oneself of the complexity of the objective world on the one hand, and having an open view at and contact with the environment and building your view on society on that, on the other. People who mean a lot for society and who gain much authority because of what they are and what they achieved, are people that have developed both of these qualities. In fact, they are academic entrepeneurs. Also in the university work as regards content we can view two apparently contradictory aspects: rigor and relevance. After all, being fundamental means going all out and relevance is about what you really effect with your contribution. It always has to be encouraged that both qualities are present.

To conclude, an academic leader is like a great tree that attracts the wind. To keep upright it has to be rooted well. Therefore, coming young leaders as well as established professors can only function well when they are rooted in society, not only at a national or international level, but also regionally. That will make them blossom every year with highly qualitative, valuable and creative results.

Sylvester Eijffinger
in samenspraak met Annemarie Hinten (Academic Forum)