Organisation - October 13, 2011

Scientists should be philosophers too

Tiny van Boekel wants to explore the options for greater integration of natural sciences and social sciences in education programmes and more room for new courses. These are his plans for when he replaces Pim Brascamp (who is retiring) as Educational Institute Director on 1 July 2012.

Tiny van Boekel
The food technologist was himself responsible for developing the Food Ethics course with the philosopher Michiel Korthals. Lecturers in different fields should do that more often - give a course together. ‘The courses in a minor are sometimes too segregated from the rest. I want to see if we can change that.
Van Boekel feels universities should give philosophy more room. ‘I suspect some students and lecturers think that's rubbish but I feel everyone should receive academic training from a lecturer specialized in the field and a philosopher. We need to be able to place our knowledge in the context of our society.'
Van Boekel also wants to investigate the options for making teaching programmes less rigid. ‘Subjects first have to be generally recognized before they can be included in the teaching programme. That stifles interesting initiatives. Not that every good idea should be rewarded immediately but I do want to see how we can encourage this. That is difficult because adding a new course means dropping another course.'
He will give up his job as professor of Product Design and Quality Management. ‘I did hesitate when rector Martin Kropff offered this position to me. The responsibility I will have as Education Director is a real honour. I think teaching is a university's most important activity, and I have always been involved in teaching as a lecturer, degree coordinator and chair of the food technology programme committee. Of course it is a pity that I will have to give up my science group and not be able to do as much research, but I am now 60. I will be winding down the research and concentrating on the education. A nice final phase to end my career.'
Van Boekel expects the process of internationalization and the rise in foreign students to continue. ‘Wageningen has a good reputation abroad. That is why it surprises and annoys me that Wageningen is relatively unknown in the Netherlands. A personal target for me is to generate more Dutch interest in what Wageningen is doing.'