Organisation - October 23, 2018

Excellent professors will receive honorary title

Albert Sikkema

Professors who are highly valuable to WUR and truly stand out are henceforth eligible for the title of distinguished professor.

The procession of professors during the opening of the academic year in 2017. © Jonne Seijdel

The board has a couple – ‘two or three’ – Wageningen professors in mind who would be deserving of the new title. They are globally prominent names within their field, repeatedly receive the best assessments from visitation committees, have received prestigious prizes and have acquired a lot of money, prestige and many programmes for WUR. Furthermore, they are still five to ten years away from retirement.

Scientific priority areas
‘We want to bind our excellent researchers to the university and put their qualities to broader use within the organisation’, says Rector Magnificus Arthur Mol. He aims to give distinguished professors tasks ‘at the strategic level, where they can think along about our scientific priority areas, our positioning in the world and quality assurance.’ Besides these broader tasks, they would remain embedded within their chair groups and keep teaching and carrying out research, Mol emphasises.

We want to bind our excellent researchers to the university.

Professors who receive the honorary title will withdraw from their position as chair holders and receive a working budget of 50 thousand euros from the Executive Board. A successor for their chair will be appointed. Their salary will still be paid by the chair group, but the group will earn that back several times over, according to the Executive Board. Several Dutch universities already employ the position of distinguished professor, says Hedwig Casteels of Corporate Human Resources, who prepared the decision-making regarding the new function.

The distinguished professor will replace two other honorary titles for professors which WUR does not use anymore: the university professor and the honorary professor. In 2001, Rudy Rabbinge was appointed university professor, but this position has not been filled since his retirement in 2011. WUR also has had four honorary professors: Herman Wijffels, Louise Fresco, Patrick Morley and Ismael Serageldin, but they usually only occasionally visited Wageningen. The board has therefore deemed these positions redundant.

On 18 October, the university’s participational councils have agreed with the proposal of the Executive Board, on the condition that WUR will have no more than five distinguished professors at a time, and that these leading figures will be appointed for a maximum of ten years. The rector saw no reason to object these conditions.