Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Sustainable growth: a continuous balancing act for the FGGA Board

Erwin Muller, Dean of FGGA and Administrator of Campus The Hague, and Koen Caminada, Vice-Dean, share their thoughts on how ‘we’ as a faculty are doing based on three themes. A discussion about the balancing act between what is and what isn’t possible and the natural urge to continue to grow, the utility and benefits of collaborations within the city and region and the personal development of the two administrators.

Erwin Muller


The Faculty Governance and Global Affairs is growing rapidly. For the last three year, including these past two Corona years, the Faculty growth rate has peaked well at the top of the desired growth of 12% per year. We are growing on all planes; students and staff. Erwin Muller: ‘Which is good, but also puts pressure on our people and facilities. A more rapid growth simply is not possible if new buildings, more staff and more money are not also made available. So, in reality you’re constantly trapped in this balancing act between what is and what isn’t possible, and what is and what isn’t the wise thing to do. Which can be quite conflicting and tricky to deal with. What it comes down to is that the 18 new educational initiatives (programmes or tracks) we’re currently developing in many different areas such as cybercrime and economy can only go ahead as planned when there’s a new building and we’ve managed to hire new staff members. We’re aiming primarily for September 2025. Growth must be sustainable. Quality insurance is essential.’

Wijnhaven is immensely popular with both students as well as people from outside. Muller: ‘Wijnhaven was already bursting at the seams at the start of 2020. We have a problem when it comes to study and workplaces. As a result, sometimes you have to postpone initiatives. Which can be done, of course, since we’re planning to be here for years to come. But it’s a continuous struggle to find a balance. Stimulating and allowing room for enthusiasm on the one hand and being realistic about the limitations we’re faced with on the other. It goes without saying that I’m incredibly proud of how well we’re doing and if I had to give us a grade, I would definitely give us an 8.’

Caminada: ‘There was a lot of mutual trust. Thanks to Corona, we went in survival mode in which the small details simply weren’t that important.’

Koen Caminada adds that the past two years have been especially challenging because of the Corona pandemic. What stood out for him was the sense of solidarity amongst the staff, which enabled us to continue our education online AND continue pursuing all our new initiatives. ‘That really was a feat to be proud of. There was a lot of mutual trust. Thanks to Corona, we went in survival mode in which the small details simply weren’t that important. You could even cautiously say that Corona has helped us do that. A good example is the development we’ve gone through with our honours tracks. That was a joint effort from all the institutes. Which would have been a lot more difficult before. Now, there’s more sense of solidarity. Not only among institutes but also among faculties.’

Apart from all the investments in education, we, as faculty, have also been very active in support systems for students and staff, such as StudentCare, Learn Anywhere and, recently, Trail, the internship bank. These initiatives have not gone unnoticed within the labour market. Caminada: ‘Four FGGA programmes are listed in the employers’ top 50 of most popular programmes. Making FGGA the most successful faculty of Leiden University. The influx of new students is also picking up drastically. Even without concrete evidence, it is safe to say that this is also due to FGGA’s outstanding and mature reputation, as well as the fact that our programmes and various staff departments are working together more effectively.’

Koen Caminada


Collaborating starts in-house, says Caminada. The board stimulates these collaborations by having faith in its employees. ‘Make the most of these collaborations. That is our ‘leitmotiv’. As board, you accommodate and coordinate, and have faith that staff members will step up to the plate and even that it that step further. For me, that’s one of the success factors best suited to our Faculty. A small example, for instance, is my request to organise something at the end of the academic year. Nothing more, nothing less. And that resulted in the incredible Campus Campsite. A small example, and only one of many, in all areas. Staff members enjoy making the most of the leeway that’s being offered to them.’

Collaborations are vital for Campus The Hague and the Faculty. In all areas, according to Muller. ‘We’re collaborating more and more with the faculties that are housed in The Hague. And by doing so, we’re shaping Leiden University as one university in two cities. Together, we’re really evolving into Campus The Hague. But the collaborations with the city and municipality are also very important to us. We would like to see The Hague become more of a student city in terms of housing, sports and facilities. This is an ongoing discussion with the municipality who’s responsible for providing that housing and those other facilities.’

Muller: ‘I also think that for many citizens of The Hague the presence of Leiden University in their town is still relatively unknown, so there’s still a lot of work to be done.’

According to Muller, the collaborations with the educational and knowledge partners in the city and region are going well. ‘Think of the The Hague University of Applied Science but also of the University of the Arts and the universities in Rotterdam and Delft. With Delft, we’re collaborating in the field of sustainability, safety, and AI. And with Erasmus in the fields of, for example, cyber, society, and economics. In The Hague South-West there are a number of initiatives such as the Scriptiewerkplaats Zuid-West where you really need each other’s help. The combination of different organisations and competences lead to contributions and solutions for problems within our society.’ Muller hopes that in the future the collaborations with international organisations will take place on less of an ad-hoc basis, but in a more structured way. ‘I also think that for many citizens of The Hague the presence of Leiden University in their town is still relatively unknown, so there’s still a lot of work to be done.’

Caminada briefly revisits the topic of in-house collaborations within the university. ‘As faculty, we’ve grown up. That’s clearly demonstrated by the fact that we’re being asked to actively participate, and sometimes even take the lead, in a number of central projects. People know where to find us based on our expertise and reputation. Corona has also really helped us in that regard. Previously, it took 20 minutes to get to and from Leiden. Now, you’re suddenly having all kinds of Teams meetings with colleagues from other faculties such as political scientists, criminologists, economists, and lecturers from the Science Faculty. That is a conscious decision because our field of expertise, global challenges, is becoming more and more interdisciplinary, solutions for global warming can only be found by working together with other experts.’

Personal level

Caminada and Muller are both halfway through their mandate. In September, they hope to be able to continue for another four years. If it were up to Muller and Caminada, the upcoming four years the focus will definitely be on implementation. Muller: ‘You can have all kinds of ambitions, but we also have to start implementing what we came up with. That’s definitely a challenge for the upcoming years. A good plan only becomes a brilliant plan when it’s executed well.’

According to Muller, on a personal level, he has learned the most about diversity, and inclusion, and sustainability. ‘With sustainability, I mistakenly thought mainly in terms of the facilities in our buildings and less in research and education. If you look at the initiatives, then we’re on the right track when it comes to sustainable solutions.’

Caminada has learned the most about people and how they operate. ‘That, when we’re under pressure, some people really got up and got going, from all echelons, from all disciplines. Always available and really looking for solutions for complex problems. I’m positively surprised by what we’ve managed to achieve together.’

Text: Victor Koppelmans en Margriet van der Zee

This website uses cookies.  More information.