Successfully involving students
A student assistantship, participation in one of the councils or being part of a board of a student association is a perfect opportunity to take a look behind the scenes at the University of Groningen. Throughout the whole university (at all layers, faculties and departments, whether large or small) students are welcomed and their contributions to education, research and governing boards are applauded. This article provides an insight into the reasons why the involvement of students throughout the entire organisation works so well at the University of Groningen.
Ingredients for success
The University operates in an environment where development, ambition and commitment are considered core values. This educational environment makes it possible for students and staff to challenge each other to develop their academic knowledge, interests and talents. Involved and respectful collaboration between these parties and subsequent responsible contributions to science and society is what we are striving for.
The University of Groningen wishes to work jointly with students on high quality research, education, and the university’s governance. Students are considered a partner in the process. The chance to really contribute to and affect the university’s course makes a position at the University of Groningen truly unique.
The combination of the university’s heritage, the organisational culture and values allows students to actively engage in and be a true part of the workforce. In turn, they prove to be responsible, committed and reliable partners. The ways in which these factors make it possible for students to participate in the university’s governance are explained below.
The university’s heritage and position within society
The University of Groningen is an ambitious international research university with strong roots in the north of the Netherlands. The university creates and shares knowledge through its outstanding research, scholarship and education. With an academic tradition dating back to 1614 and a rich heritage, the university is a unique academic community with a strong sense of belonging and a culture of innovative education and research. Research and teaching at the University of Groningen are curiosity driven and relate closely to global societal needs.
Diversity as a resource
The University of Groningen has a very diverse student population, a population that also testifies to the ever increasing globalisation of education. The university values this diversity and embraces the different backgrounds, perspectives, experiences and contributions of every member of the academic community. Even though this sometimes can lead to new and challenging situations, the University of Groningen has always considered diversity as something positive. For diversity can be a fruitful growing ground for innovation and creativity. Interaction with students and participation of students in our governance is important if we want to make optimal use of all the different perspectives and ideas.
Another reason why it is possible for students to really participate in and contribute to reaching the objectives of the workforce is the university’s organisational culture.
Following a mostly bottom up management model, the university seeks to develop ideas using the brainpower of its entire academic community and therefore appreciates all contributions to teaching, education, research, governance, and so forth from all members. Thus, the organisational culture at the university of Groningen focuses on people. More specifically, on the individual. Their needs and abilities form the basis for the university. The university benefits from its employees and not vice versa. The work is therefore mostly divided and organised based on personal talents, preferences and wishes. Ambition, commitment and room for development are important values. The emphasis on these values and the organisational culture create an opportunity for all the members of the academic community (staff, students and so forth) to develop their talents. In practice, it turns out that it also builds a morale and a sense of ownership of the university’s direction among employees of all levels.
University of Groningen (2015). Strategic plan 2015-2020.
Verhagen, P. (2011). Kwaliteit met beleid: Basisboek voor sociale studies (2e druk). Bussum, Nederland: Coutinho.
© University of Groningen / Office of the University / Tanja Grgic