Jouke de Vries, the new president of the University of Groningen, says that cultivating regional collaboration for the academic institution is a bigger priority than a branch campus in China.
Translation by Traci White
De Vries, who became the president of the university in October of 2018, made those remarks in an in-depth interview about his plans for the RUG with Dagblad van het Noorden. In the profile, De Vries emphasised his preference to focus less on internationalisation, including fostering a relationship with China, and more on developing local connections in the northern Netherlands.
The new president says that internationalisation and globalisation at academic institutions are as old as time, “and while they are extremely important, you can only really pursue them once you have the local level in good working order.” De Vries wants to see the RUG live up to its status as a true university of the north: “Together with the universities of applied sciences, we need to cultivate connections between Groningen, Leeuwarden, Assen and Emmen.”
Prior to succeeding Sibrand Poppema as the leader of the university, De Vries served as the dean of Campus Fryslân for three years. The eleventh faculty of the university officially launched last fall, and De Vries oversaw the development of the campus with an emphasis on close working relationships with other academic institutions and businesses in Friesland.
De Vries appears to be planning to take the same approach to the University of Groningen as a whole. “I see it as our primary task in the immediate future to strengthen our bond with the northern Netherlands”, De Vries told the Dagblad. “The university has to take the lead in developing new economic sectors in the region.”
Under Poppema’s leadership, the university made strides in its ambitions to achieve the status of a top 100 institution and become a more international university, notably in the form of plans to open a branch campus in China. While De Vries says he intends to maintain the RUG’s international stature, he says that vision for the Asian branch campus were too broad: the plans were voted down by the university council in early 2018.
While De Vries sees regional activity as a bigger priority, he called out the tendency among decision-makers across the north to insist on always having their say when it comes to the economic course of the provinces. “That’s all well and good, but that means that development is not happening quickly enough. If the local leaders can’t manage that themselves, then it is up to the university to lead the way.”