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MOOC lecturer appointed as Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Professor TU Delft

Professor Arno Smets

Professor Arno Smets

The aim of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek chairs (AvL) at TU Delft is to promote young, excellent academics to the position of Professor at an early age so that they can develop their academic careers to the fullest possible extent. Nominations are assessed by the Advisory Appointment Committee on three criteria: research, education and organisation.

Historically, the main criterion for an AvL appointment has been the academic status, based on evidence of outstanding achievements in research. As part of the Year of Education this time a candidate was nominated who has not only an outstanding research performance, but a very strong education profile as well, both within and outside the university.

TU Delft has appointed Dr. Arno Smets as Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Professor. Arno is an excellent researcher in the field photo-voltaic material and devices. He is also the lecturer of our most popular MOOC, a MOOC on Solar Energy, with over 120.000 learners. This was one of the first two MOOCs TU Delft launched on the EdX platform. It has had three runs already and has been translated into Arabic. The MOOC has provided Arno’s group with important research data as well. With his drive and enthusiasm Arno has made his MOOC to an international  success. This has given his department an even stronger postion on the world map as one of the world’s important groups for teaching and research on solar energy.

Arno’s work also shows how interlinked research and education are at universities, in developing new ideas, creating new networks, collecting data and of course in academic careers.

 

 

The Year of Education

[Photo credit CC-BY: www.gotcredit.com ]

[Photo credit CC-BY: www.gotcredit.com ]

At the opening of the academic year on August 31st I declared this academic year the year of education. That may seem odd: universities are about education anyway, aren’t they? But the point is that they are about research too and at research intensive universities it is hard to strike the right balance between education and research.

Research defines the career of  academic staff, not only at our university, but internationally. Global university rankings are dominated by research and hardly take education into account. At the same time, students worldwide aks for good education. That requires a better balance than we have a present. Additionally, many of our academic staff wonder how their contribution to education can be evaluated the same way as their research accomplishments.

This is not only a Dutch issue.  For example, it is also a discussion in the UK, where universities and government talk about the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework. The Guardian on 7 July states: “The proposed Tef (Teaching Excellence Framework) is often characterised as a Ref (Research Excellence Framework) for teaching. It’s a description that reminds us how much less attention university teaching has received than its showier sibling, university research.”

What will we do at TU Delft? This year we will make some significant investments -not only financial- in education:

  • We will invest an extra 6 million euro per year in education, most of that is meant to recruit more academic staff
  • We will start building our new education centre, PULSE
  • We intend to set up education fellowships and an Institute for Academic Development, where our teaching staff can share ideas. This will be a place for excellence and innovation in higher education, led by one of our TU Delft professors
  • We will introduce the TU Delft Education Day
  • And we will improve the balance between research and education in our career policies. For example, we are working on the creation of education fellowships and a special Anthony van Leeuwenhoek Professor position.

Our university wants to excel at both research and education. So we realise that for now that requires taking additional steps to improve the position of education, not as the sad sibling of research, but as its equal.

© 2011 TU Delft