Universiteit Leiden

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Mark Rutgers introduces himself

What you see is what you get, is how people who know him describe Mark Rutgers who became Dean of our Faculty on 1 March. For some of us he is a familiar face, and for those who don’t yet know him, he hopes to get to meet them soon. His first three months will be taken up with a lot of reading and even more talking, given that the faculty is all about the people who work here.

Mark Rutgers is looking forward to working as our Dean. ‘I wanted it so much, I even gave up my six-month sabbatical for it. Opportunities like this don’t come along very often.’ He believes the Faculty of Humanities is a fantastic and unique faculty. ‘Our range of programmes is very broad and covers so many different fields. Nowhere else in the Netherlands can you study this diverse a range of languages or get a PhD in the arts.’

Career and publications

Throughout his career, he has mainly been involved with his specialist field of research on public values. His background is in philosophy, having studied Philosophy in Leiden. After graduating, he worked for almost 23 years at our university where he obtained a PhD on the topic of ‘Public administration as a knowledge-integrating science’. He feels more affinity with the humanities than social sciences. Consequently, all his research has been in the humanities and typically covers conceptual linguistic and historical subjects.  For the past seven years Mark has been Director of the Graduate School of Social Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. Working in Leiden again feels like coming home, back to the city where he has lived for more than 25 years, but also back to his roots, the faculty where he started his academic career.

He is proud of his publications, but he is more proud of his most recent research that has yet to be published. He and one of his former PhD candidates have together explored the concept of loyalty. What exactly is loyalty? Mark focused on the Western context, his fellow researcher on the Confucian context. ‘I am a great fan of interdisciplinary working; I believe that you should never publish on a language that you don’t have a good command of. Instead, you should use someone else’s expertise. There’s no better way of bringing people together than teaching or conducting research together. In my experience, it’s quite possible to know more about a colleague with whom you do joint research who lives in Australia and whom you only speak to via Skype than you do about a colleague who sits in the next room.’

‘I also like talking to students. I’m happy that they are well represented in all kinds of consultative bodies here, both in the Faculty Board and in the Faculty Council. I believe that the National Student Survey is a very important platform and its outcomes provide very valuable feedback. Students can be highly motivated and lecturers can be excellent, but if the lecture hall isn’t clean or the grading isn’t properly organised, the final assessment still won’t be good. A good support system is often underestimated, but it’s incredibly important. I’ve been a guest lecturer at Leiden University for a long time and I’m going to carry on with that. I hope that in time I will be lecturing in one of the curricular courses again. Teaching is the best way to understand why we are here.’

The faculty as a cohesive unit

Mark recognises the importance of the faculty being and remaining a cohesive unit, even when parts of it are in The Hague or Rabat. Institutes and departments may operate as autonomous units in different places, but we still share the same objectives and the same problems, such as pressure of work, for example. ‘These are issues that will have my attention.’ In the area of ICT the faculty has a lot of good opportunities ahead. ‘We have to continue to focus on what we are best at, namely face-to-face teaching, but we can certainly make good use of such methods as MOOCs and blending learning, and tools such as knowledge clips and YouTube films. They’re great for adding depth in discussions and keeping students on their toes.’


One new development that we could make better use of is ‘Life-long learning’.  People are often looking for additional training in mid-career or even a career switch to something that is closer to their heart. ‘We should feel morally obliged to serve this group by developing programmes in areas that they need and where we have something excellent to offer; I’m talking here about language and culture subjects and creative and performing arts. In time, alumni will receive a voucher from the Ministry of Education to spend later in their lives on education. It’s our job to take on this societal task and develop the programmes they want.’

‘My predecessor Wim van den Doel has put our “young” faculty firmly on the map. I will be focusing more on internal matters, that’s what I enjoy. The Faculty Strategic Plan was the reason I applied for this job. In particular the fact that it’s not an overly thick document told me that it is a serious plan. It is based on six key themes, and a lot has already been achieved over the past years. I intend to see that we continue that progress. For me, languages are a very valuable field of research; ultimately, all communication and all knowledge come down to language. Over the coming three months I intend to really find out all there is to know about the faculty and to do that I’ll be talking to lots of colleagues and students. As well as gathering a lot of knowledge, I will also be asking what the faculty means to them, what the faculty could mean to them and what the faculty management should do or should not do to make sure we have as effective and pleasant a working and study environment as possible.’

Mark Rutgers is 58 years old and lives in Leiden with his wife Sandra. In his free time he enjoys making music, book-binding and reading science fiction and fantasy. Before studying Philosophy, he graduated in museology at a university of applied sciences.

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