2021 New Year's 'Speech' - Peter Birdsall, President of the Executive Board of Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences
Today is the last day of January 2021, and although this year has started during a stranger period than any of us have experienced until now, the year brings a sense of hope and excitement as we start to move into new pastures. This year’s annual New Year’s dinner, parties and speeches have not been given in the same way as usual, however, it remains important that we take a brief moment to look back at the achievements of last year and especially forward to the next eleven twelfths of this year.
The difficulties we faced in 2020, which started with such great optimism, do not need re-addressing. It is, though, important for us to look back at some of the achievements and good things that have happened at Wittenborg in the past year.
The biggest success - our students & staff!
Certainly, the biggest success of 2020 was the loyalty and dedication shown by our students, our teachers and indeed all of our members staff, during a year in which all of us have been challenged!
Teaching ‘went online’, then continued online and in class in the new ‘hybrid teaching system’, only to have to finish the year online again. Everyone has taken up this enormous challenge in such a grand and professional way that it has actually made Wittenborg more stronger and successful at what it does. For that we are enormously thankful.
Our Wonderful Wittenborg ICT Team
Our ‘hats off’ to the wonderful Wittenborg ICT team who have worked tirelessly and sometimes 24/7, with total commitment, to make the online services and support offered as good as it possibly can be. We think that everyone at Wittenborg will join us in thanking the team for their achievements and assistance to us all.
Our praise to our students and those who supported them - including all our 280+ new students! Even though international travel was severely limited during the year, in 2020, Wittenborg actually still grew in numbers, by a smaller percentage than would normally be expected, but students from around the world still took up the challenge to study a bachelor's, master's or MBA degree in Apeldoorn, Amsterdam or Munich. We also welcomed the first group of students joining the hospitality programme at our partner college in Bad Vöslau, Austria.
Graduates 2020 - 1.5 metres!
We said ‘goodbye’ to a record number of graduates during 2020, with around 150 bachelor's and master's degrees awarded, and we welcomed these new alumni. In the summer, we were able to hold a hybrid graduation ceremony (the 1.5-metres ceremony), in which some of our new graduates could attend in person whilst others experienced the graduation online. We are extremely proud of this group of students who managed to graduate during what must have been an incredibly tough time for some, if not all of them. A special mention must be made to one of our graduates who actually finished her graduation assignment, in lockdown, in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
In the area of academics and research we also achieved new milestones, renewing Wittenborg’s Erasmus+ Charter through a validation for another seven years, which allows us to continue the development of EU research projects as well as student and faculty exchange with fellow Erasmus partners. In 2020, Wittenborg, together with partners from in and around Europe, gained approval for three research projects, focused on education development and sustainability (circular economy), funded by the European Union.
In 2020, we went also through two important and successful accreditation processes, once with a panel in person and once ‘online’. We gained initial NVAO accreditation of our own master of science awards for the programme master of business management, with 8 specialisations, something we have been working towards since 2012. We also had a panel review our MBA programme with all its specialisations, who reported back that they were fully satisfied that it should be re-accredited.
All in all, looking back at 2020, however strange it may seem under the global circumstances, we can look back at a successful year for Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences!
2021 - Lets make it happen!
Looking ahead at our current year, 2021, although the year started with great hope of a quick solution to the pandemic, it is becoming more clear that solutions are slower than expected. However, there is certainly ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ when it comes to the pandemic, and this light will only help to confirm everyone’s decisions on their future. As has been already shown last year, the pandemic does not change young peoples minds about their future, their investment in studies and their thirst for knowledge, understanding and above all their quest for new experiences.
For that reason we will continue to welcome new students from around the world to our campuses in 2021. We will continue to develop our research projects, involving teachers and students. We will continue our plans to build new and bespoke student housing units in the centre of Apeldoorn. We will continue our drive and improve and perfect our education content, the quality of our teaching staff, our programme delivery and all our support processes. In 2021, we will continue our drive towards international accreditations, and continue increasing our recognition and reputation as an international business school and ‘boutique’ university of applied sciences, both at home and abroad.
The lessons we have learned last year, about teaching online education and overall staff and student support will be further developed and extended in 2021. Actually, we cannot imagine going back to completely ‘off-line education’, though Wittenborg’s USP is ‘experienced-based education’. This means students and colleagues from all corners of the world coming together to study, learn, work and develop themselves together, and this can never be fully replaced with online teaching and learning. On the other hand, it’s important not to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ and our online materials, services, module organisation and structure, recorded keynotes and interesting guest speakers to name but a few online positives, will surely remain.
Although we are having to endure some ‘dark days of winter’ and therefore the message of optimism and hope may sometimes be difficult; we can assure you that as a ‘Team Wittenborg’ - students and staff - we can make 2021 an enormously successful year!
We are looking forward to working together with you to ensure that this happens. Better Yourself, Better Our World.
President of the Executive Board
by Peter Birdsall