14 March 2019
'This was more of a learning exercise than an assessment exercise. We don’t have many suggestions to give, but there are many suggestions that we have collected which will be useful to other institutions in Europe.’ Professor Fulvio Esposito could not have given a better compliment after an intensive day of interviews and evaluations.
Prof. Esposito was one of the three international experts leading a new evaluation of UAntwerp’s HR policy for researchers on 14 March 2019.
HR Excellence in Research Award
The University of Antwerp has held the HR Excellence in Research Award since 2013. This label is issued by the European Commission in recognition of an organisation’s excellent HR policy for researchers.
In 2018, UAntwerp submitted a new version of its HR Strategy Action Plan to the European Commission. To conclude the new evaluation round, UAntwerp welcomed a panel of three international experts on 14 March, thus becoming one of the first European universities to receive a site visit.
It was a tense wait for the jury’s verdict, but when it came, it was unanimous and full of praise for all the efforts made.
‘It was good to read the report, but even better to meet so many people who are enthusiastic, dedicated and involved,’ said Marta Lazarowicz (Foundation for Polish Science).
Stress among professors
One of the elements of the HR policy that received special praise was the study into stress levels conducted among professors. The results of this study have been followed up appropriately. The faculties received extra resources for providing support, and the Talent Centre now offers extra training and refresher courses.
Clear criteria and Talent Centre
Nele Wynants, a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Arts, told the jury about her experiences with the HR policy for researchers. ‘I didn’t know anything about the plan itself until a few months ago, but we as researchers have noticed that a lot of things have changed in the last few years. Junior researchers can take various training courses through the Talent Centre, such as leadership training. The eligibility criteria for promotion are also much clearer now, which has made the procedure more accessible. This has meant, for example, that more women are applying and also actually being promoted.'
The HR Strategy Action Plan also includes a gender action plan. On all boards and committees the aim is to achieve a gender balance in the members of at least two-thirds to one-third. Support is available for researchers who have children, in the form of preschool childcare, and a fund has been set up to cover replacement teachers during periods of maternity leave.
A wide range of careers after PhD
Career guidance for PhD students doesn’t just cover life within the university’s walls. After finishing their PhDs, many brand-new doctors look for jobs on the 'external' labour market. For this reason, the university's HR policy is also a springboard for their future careers. The Talent Centre aims to boost researchers’ competences through training courses, networking sessions with companies and a mentoring programme.
PhD students from other countries often move to Antwerp with their families. The individual guidance available to these new colleagues doesn’t focus on the PhD student alone. The aim is to support the entire family, from securing accommodation to helping the student’s partner find a job.
> Download the full report from the jury (pdf - 756kb)
The HR Strategy Action Plan team and the international jury after a long day of assessments