Marion Malcolm now gives her reflections on the study tour...
So it is now St Andrew Day (30 November) and 2 weeks since the end of the AUA study tour to the Netherlands and Belgium. Normal work and life have taken over since I got back but I am still constantly reflecting on what we learned and the people we met – and I shall do that for some time to come. I have also been boring/inspiring all my colleagues and family with what we did and the tremendous welcome we got from the Universities we visited. I will be giving a presentation to our local AUA group on 18 January so hope to inspire University of Aberdeen colleagues to take part in future study tours. I have also contacted our Erasmus office to offer my services to encourage students to take part in the scheme (we always welcome more students to Aberdeen under the Erasmus programme than we send abroad).
Ruth and I will be pulling together the text for the research theme for the study tour so that is definitely on our “to do” list before we finish for the Christmas break. Trying to think about the differences and similarities in research between the UK and the Netherlands and Belgium is not difficult. We spend a lot of time in the UK measuring or trying to measure what we undertake in terms of research income and outputs and what the impact of universities is – and significant funding follows these metrics. In the Netherlands and Belgium, staff tend to be “doing” rather than “saying what they do” although I wonder how long that can last for. They already undertake formal reviews (by an international panel) of their research every 6 years and impact (known as valorisation) is measured so it seems that they are moving towards the UK model. All of the universities we visited had excellent international reputations and networks so some food for thought there.
The University of Antwerp was most similar to the University of Aberdeen in terms of teaching and research profile and numbers of students and staff so that was interesting for me personally. Although with 9 campuses they certainly have their work cut off coordinating everything (Aberdeen only has 2). Antwerp is a very cosmopolitan city, has a very large port and is also the diamond capital of the world – sadly we didn’t get any free samples.
On a personal note, I would like to say a big thanks to Els for her outstanding planning and coordination of the trip (I am sure she felt like the Pied Piper at times making sure that we were all on the right train at the right time!) and to Andrew for managing the tour blog.