Opportunities and challenges for education and research

John Dane, chairman of the Executive Board HZ

Opportunity for HZ: the Delta Knowledge Center

The establishment of the Delta Knowledge Centre is part of the marine barracks compensation package. The core mission of this centre is the realization of innovation solutions for a future-proof, safe and prosperous Delta. As HZ, we work closely with the Zeeland knowledge institutions Scalda and UCR and with universities in Utrecht and Wageningen. The Knowledge Centre is demand-oriented and focuses on complex social issues that are characterized by the unique combination of water, food and energy. In order to arrive at good solutions, it is necessary to bring together different areas of knowledge (alpha, bèta, gamma): biological, technical, chemical, ecological, socio-economic, legal, cultural and political-administrative. This also includes the research dimensions from fundamental to practice-oriented and demand and problem-driven education (MBO-HBO-WO).

It is expected that 200 extra mbo and hbo students will join each year and that an average of 115 will continue to live and work in Zeeland after their studies. The head office, some research lab facilities, development, test and demo facilities and business development will be located at the Kenniswerf in Vlissingen. In addition, activities will take place in other parts of Zeeland, such as at the NIOZ in Yerseke, the Joint Research Center in Middelburg and the Rusthoeve experimental farm in Colijnsplaat. Within the Knowledge Centre, new laboratories are provided, the development of new mbo and hbo (bachelor and professional master) programmes is given a place, professorships, lectorates and practitioners collaborate and work is being done on valorisation and innovation with Dockwize activities, business developers linked to research groups. Until mid-2021, quartermasters Louis de Quellerij and Pieter van Geel will be working on preparations so that the knowledge centre can actually start next year. They build on the building blocks of Campus Zeeland: the Joint Research Center, the Department of Engineering and Innovation of UCR and the cooperation platform Delta issues Flanders-Netherlands.

Challenges We celebrated the opening of the academic year with Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven. The Executive Board explained to her that HZ contributes to a sustainable society from three perspectives:

  1. As the Personal University of Applied Sciences, we are an open, free and personal community of students, employees and partners. Students develop into enterprising, innovative and value-driven professionals who want to make the world a better place.
  2. As a University of Applied Sciences, we conduct practice-oriented research together with partners and jointly develop solutions for complex issues. At HZ we strive for a sustainable world, based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. As a regional partner for the Southwest Netherlands, we support the socio-economic development in the region in the broadest sense. This includes taking care of the human capital agenda and contributing to the region's innovative capacity.

John Dane

HZ is the only university of applied sciences in this region. Research shows that the presence of a higher education institution leads to higher educated people in the region and that this offers a good climate for the establishment of companies. This leads to employment, increased spending power and revitalization of cities and region. And that has an attractive effect on students. The importance of a good knowledge infrastructure for a vital region is therefore evident. And that is precisely where HZ faces a number of challenges. Challenge 1: funding student numbers The current funding system for higher professional education institutions has a relatively low share (20%). Most of the funding is variable (80%) and therefore dependent on the number of students. As a result, small study programmes and (regional) universities of applied sciences are under pressure, while at the same time HZ’s social mission for the region is only becoming more important. HZ therefore demands attention for sustainable funding. Challenge 2: funding practice-oriented research One of HZ’s social assignments is to conduct practice-oriented research and valorisation. HZ has built up its themes in recent years and is therefore an innovation engine for the region. However, the funding of practice-oriented research from the macro budget lags far behind what is needed and what universities can spend on research. HZ therefore demands attention for the full funding of practice-oriented research. Challenge 3: speed of new study programmes The knowledge infrastructure in Zeeland lags behind other regions in the Netherlands and needs reinforcement and acceleration. Setting up and having new programmes accredited is (unnecessarily) time-consuming. Zeeland now has only one master’s programme (MSc River Delta Development), but could quickly expand that with five new professional master’s programmes for the Delta Knowledge Centre. We would like its current knowledge infrastructure to enable us to market study programmes more quickly. HZ therefore asks for cooperation to bring the knowledge infrastructure to a higher level. These challenges have been recognized and acknowledged by the minister. We trust that this will lead to a sustainable perspective for Zeeland with regard to the knowledge infrastructure.