UM's organisational culture and identity

The ideas expressed in Room for Everyone’s Talent resonate with Maastricht University as a young, pioneering university in the heart of Europe. UM has always been ambitious in the areas of innovative small-scale education and interdisciplinary research with demonstrable societal impact. UM’s organisational culture is best described using several key concepts; the specific combination of which form the core of our identity.

  • Academic citizenship, the UM community exemplifies the concept of academic citizenship.
  • Educational approach, since its inception, UM has been shaped by its focus on innovative, student-centred education.
  • Interdisciplinary research, research at UM is mission-driven, and its integration of multiple disciplines helps to contribute to solving regional and international challenges.
  • Societal impact, from the founding of the university in 1976, UM has been a vehicle for the economic and intellectual development of the Limburg region and beyond.
  • MUMC+ partnership, our strong partnership with the MUMC+ academic hospital is one of the pillars of our embedment in the local community.
  • Diversity and inclusivity, UM strives to go well beyond quotas and compliance; we are determined to foster an environment in which everyone is and feels welcome.
  • Leadership, well-developed leadership is a precondition to succeed, and therefore considered a key area in itself.

Ambitions and objectives

UM wants to ensure everyone has a fulfilling career in which their capabilities are used, seen and recognised by others – by students, peers and supervisors. By allowing diverse sets of talents to thrive, we will increase our ability to achieve excellence in the following key areas: research, education, impact, leadership and patient care. We strive to be an open, inclusive and diverse community of academic citizens who flourish through recognition of their talents and efforts, and are rewarded on the basis of their own merits. We believe this will foster a challenging work environment and increase job satisfaction.

The new approach towards Recognition & Rewards requires a culture change, a change in mindset and leadership that transcends human resource management, organisational structures and quality assurance. Such a change needs national and international efforts to ensure alignment throughout academia. We believe the new way of thinking about academic careers must be built upon:

  • Diversified career paths
    We can enable greater diversity in career paths and profiles by recognising and rewarding more diversity in competences and talents. Within a team, department or faculty, the different profiles and backgrounds should be coherently integrated. The diversification and vitalisation of careers allows us to make better use of the natural talents and intrinsic motivation of academics.
  • Personal growth
    In this new approach, personal growth is not necessarily defined as reaching a higher academic position. It is also about learning new skills, having the opportunity to excel in the things one is good at and being appreciated for one’s contributions. This type of personal growth not only increases job satisfaction but contributes to feelings of involvement and commitment.
  • Individual and organisational needs
    It is important to emphasise that having more diversified career paths does not mean anything goes. In order to ensure a healthy organisation, there must be a balance between the needs of the organisation and the ambitions of the individuals in the community. Therefore, academics should be aware that pursuing a career at UM will have its limitations, just as it does within any organisation. 

Moving forward

In order to acknowledge different types of talent within our organisation, the UM Recognition & Rewards programme broadens the definition of a meaningful career to better reflect where value is created within academia day-to-day. Part of the next phase, is how to weigh achievements in and between the key areas so as to explore and determine subsequent career steps. This step will be the key focus of attention in the next phase. Important other programme milestones moving forward are the following:

  • We will define how we envision a more inclusive culture, one that accommodates the complexity and interdisciplinary nature of modern academia and society. 
  • We will outline the parameters of academic citizenship and the role it should play in determining development and achievements.
  • From 2021 onwards, the new Strategic Evaluation Protocol (SEP) which builds upon the Recognition & Rewards principles including DORA and Open Science will be implemented. In SEP, the assessment of academics shifts in focus from merely quantitative to qualitative criteria.
  • The criteria that apply to PhD trajectories must be adapted to fit the assessment criteria for research quality. They should take into account possibilities to develop skills in the other key areas and how these can be reflected in the ultimate assessment of the trajectory.

Further defining and implementing the Recognition & Rewards programme will require a different mindset for those in UM leadership positions. Maastricht University will therefore invest heavily in leadership development and a culture of openness and transparency. 

Fundamental for achieving these milestones and making the Recognition & Rewards programme a success is a culture change, a long-term process that involves continuous dialogue, pilots, experiments and sharing best practices both within and outside the university. 

Next steps

In 2020, Maastricht University formed four committees with representatives from each faculty for the key areas of education, research, impact and leadership. Each committee has developed a narrative to present a first approach on how to recognise and reward performance within each key area.

We are taking the next step by inviting the UM community to join the discussion about this vision and the abovementioned narratives. The four narratives will then be translated into broadly-defined assessment criteria and quality indicators, reflecting the diverse traditions and requirements of different academic disciplines, as well as taking into account the national Recognition & Rewards framework. Teams and individuals will be evaluated according to narratives, assessment criteria and quality indicators based on personal goals and teams’ aims and strategies. As Maastricht University has signed DORA, journal impact factors cannot remain the dominant indicator for assessment. While quantitative indicators are allowed, they serve to support rather than dominate assessment and need to be meaningfully related to and signal the quality of the academic process and output in relation to the mission, vision and strategy of the team that is the point of reference.

Eventually, these efforts will result in new guidelines for employee recruitment, selection, assessment, development and promotion. These guidelines will be presented to the participatory bodies and other consultative bodies before final decisions are made. Furthermore, we anticipate additional positive, spill-over effects in the way we all work together, for example in the new career policy for administrative staff, and in other areas in which the personal development of our people can be encouraged and realised.

Maastricht University has developed a project timeline consisting of three phases:

  1. Phase 1: Committee consultations (2020)
  2. Phase 2: Community dialogue and brainstorm phase (February 2021 – July 2021)
  3. Phase 3: Implementation phase (July 2021 – December 2022)

More information on the abovementioned phases can be found in the downloadable full version of the vision document. More information on the narratives can be found here. (UM employees only)

Stakeholder engagement

At Maastricht University, the institutional Recognition & Rewards committee consists of the rector and the faculty deans, who together lead the programme’s development. The institutional committee facilitates the discussion with the academic community and ensures coherence between the internal discussions and the subsequent proposals. Realising and safeguarding alignment with national developments is also the committee’s responsibility.

The involvement of the entire Maastricht University community in the development of the Recognition & Rewards programme is key to creating a sustainable culture change. Sharing this vision document is an open invitation to join the discussion on Recognition & Rewards. Through dialogue sessions within the faculties and departments, all those who work within our walls have the opportunity to help shape and share the programme going forward.

  • UM's organisational culture and identity

  • Ambitions and objectives

  • Moving forward

  • Next steps

  • Stakeholder engagement