Thursday, 26th of April 2018, Campus Belval, Blackbox
30 colleagues present; 15 excused.
The Meeting starts at 18:00
APUl welcomes Rector Pallage who adresses brielfly the audience and thanks APUL for the invitation.
The discussion starts immediately.
- The new law on the University:
Rector Pallage emphasized that it is a good law, and that we can work with it. He sees it as an improvement of the system and thinks that there is still room for democracy. He reminds the assembly that the Board of Governors (Conseil de Gouvernance) will change substantially by growing from 7 members from outside to 13 with substantial representation of the community: a student will be there as a voting member, the representative will now be a voting member, and two more members will be proposed from the professors of the university. The new university council has a lot of power, but like in the past it can be overruled. Asked more specifically on this issue and on whether he would be ready to do it, Rector Pallage answered that it could well happen: “We will disagree, that will happen but most of the time we will find a consensus”.
The same approach was taken with regard to the elections of Dean. In the new law, Deans are appointed and not elected. According to the government, nothing has changed since it does not mean that Deans cannot be elected. But as they have to be appointed by the Rector, a refusal by the Rector is legally possible. When asked if that could happen, Rector Pallage answered that such a scenario would put the academic community (Rector included) in a difficult position. He however made clear that he cannot promise this would not happen.
A discussion on transparency, communication and research then engaged.
- a) On transparency, communication, Rector Pallage took the view that no teamwork is possible if you don’t exchange with the community. SP has the ambition to make this university more transparent, though dialogue and transparency are often not easy to apply. E.g. having town hall meetings to listen to the members of the university and answer their questions.
- b) On research: We are living in a country that defined us as teaching, research and service. We can’t work in our ivory tower without connecting to the population/industry. We don’t have to work for them, but our teaching should not be disconnected from them. According to Rector Pallage, the third mission of university is an important one. We should do research that could be useful to the society. Stéphane Pallage however conceded that doing research outside research priorities is not easy but that there was still room to do it. He also stressed that priorities can be changed in the future.
- Career tracks and pension schemes
Several APUL members explained their frustration about the lack of a career track. Rector Pallage acknowledged that the current system is terrible, and explained how the new law offers the possibility for promotion to different levels, though there will always be quota.
Access to promotions is an important issue and the central services are currently working on a draft for these procedures. The new promotion system will be based on an evaluation, on research, teaching and possibly another dimension (community service could be taken into account as it is the case in the US and Quebec). People will be evaluated on a series of dimensions. Rector Pallage strongly believes than the new system is better than the previous system. The reality however is that we should live for a while and then see what future possible amendments could be.
Several APUL members expressed their concerns that the new law could lead to be moved from associate to assistant professors. SP emphasized that this is based on a misunderstanding or miscommunication: everyone with the current rank of associate professor (in English) will remain associate professor.
As for tenure tracks, the system will be similar to that existing in the US. People will be hired under “contrats à durée déterminée” with midterm evaluations.
- Senior Professors:
With regard to Senior Professors and the lack of clarity of such status, Rector Pallage was not informed on the existing problems and promised he will tackle them.
- Pension schemes for professors and permanent academic staff:
Rector Pallage confirmed that there is an additional pension scheme for the rector, vice-rectors, Interdisciplinary Center heads. According to the Rector, a small percentage of their salaries is invested in a fund to which you are eligible after leaving your function.
The Rectorate is open to discussions on pension schemes for others.
APUL invites Rector Pallage on more clarity as to the pension schemes existing at the rectorate level.
The rector was also asked about the Resaver plan, a pan-European pension plan enabling individuals to remain with the same pension arrangement when moving between different countries and employers. The new employer must be a member of the Resaver Plan.
Stéphane Pallage informs the assembly that Ludwig Neyses took part in some discussions in Brussel. Yet the University is still not part of the scheme. APUL encourages the Rector to follow up on that possibility.
- The importance of combination of research and teaching for the University prestige
- Teaching loads:
The University of Luxembourg is presented as a research university. APUL reminded the Rector that there is however no research without teaching. Teaching is also a mean to make progress in research and to disseminate research result outcomes.
Rector Pallage agrees with that statement and acknowledges that inequality in teaching is an issue. In his view, the law will force everyone to teach. That is a fact. Besides, evaluation will be based on research, teaching and community service. Teaching will clearly be part of the role of everyone.
- Teaching standards:
Concerning teaching standards, APUL observes that there is a clear problem about teaching loads, different contracts, some colleagues teach very few hours. Different standards apply from one faculty to another, from interdisciplinary center to another.
Stéphane Pallage points out that traditions are already very strong at this university and that they may differ among faculties and interdisciplinary centers. One must be realistic. It is going to be difficult to satisfy everyone. Rector Pallage suggested that the university council probably would be the right place to discuss a better model for teaching.
During this dialogue, Rector Pallage was also asked to present his views on decentralization of powers and the functioning of the central administration.
On decentralization, Stéphane Pallage admitted that the central administration often has a hard time knowing that there is a balance between autonomy of a unit as well as the importance of centralizing the treatment of some issues. This is particularly the case with regard to communication and legal offices. A central management of such subject matters would certainly be better. To some extent, decentralization went too far.
With regard to the functioning of the central administration, Rector Pallage mentioned the need for standard forms and a coherent approach. According to him, some services should have a client-oriented approach. Some concerns were also expressed by APUL members concerning proof of payments. In this field, it looks like we moved from a lack of control to an excess of control. A discussion took place on how the system could be improved (some members suggesting a computerized approach. Here again Rector Pallage admitted that there is still room for improvement and that it also means a change of culture.
The discussion ends at 20:00. APUL thanks Rector Pallage for the discussion. It is agreed that such a dialogue with the Rector could be repeated every year.
End of meeting: 20:00
Minutes by L. Van der Torre & E. Poillot