About the Digital Agenda
The digital agenda gives direction to the development of digitisation at the UvA. This agenda is intended as a source of inspiration, ambition and navigation tool. This is much needed for the UvA: digitisation is transforming research, digital resources have become indispensable in education, and we are increasingly aware of our dependence on technology companies.
The digital agenda was drafted in collaboration with a large number of subject matter experts from the faculties and services, and tested by various experts and bodies. At the same time, it is a starting point: in the coming years, many staff members and students will be involved in initiatives. This agenda is therefore intended for all employees who will contribute to it in one way or another. Because we make the digital agenda together.
The Executive Board adopted the digital agenda on 10 May 2022. The resources and budgets required for the initiatives needed to realise the ambitions of the digital agenda, have been determined. Based on the available financial and human resources, initiatives will now be prioritised in consultation with the faculties. Information on the outcome of this prioritisation is expected to follow in January 2023.
On 18 February 2022, students from various faculties and backgrounds defied a severe storm to discuss the digital agenda of the UvA. The goal was simple: ensure that UvA’s digitisation plans match the needs of students, and incorporate their ideas. It turned out to be a very valuable and energic meeting, in which students took full advantage of the opportunity to contribute their ideas.
How can digitisation provide maximum support for lecturers and researchers at the UvA? This question was the focus of a roundtable discussion on 31 March 2022, and a number of interviews with lecturer-researchers. After earlier meetings with students and with support and management staff (OBP), the floor was now given to lecturers and researchers of the Faculty of Science, FEB, FMG and FGw. This provided valuable insights for the further development of the Digital Agenda.
How can digitisation at the UvA support its staff members and students as much as possible? This question was the focus of the second 'campfire session' about the digital agenda of the UvA on 24 March 2022. After an earlier meeting with students, this time the floor was given to staff members of Academic Affairs, Amsterdam Law School, the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, the Executive Staff, ICT Services, Facility Services, the Administration Centre and Information Management.
In order to translate our strategic ambitions into goals and initiatives, we have identified nine focus areas. For each area, we formed a diverse focus group to work on this. The starting point is what digitalisation must ultimately deliver for our students, lecturers, researchers and staff. And also: how do you ensure that ideas and plans become reality? Because the digital agenda seems to be about technology, but it is actually about people and how we shape the future of the UvA together with each other and our environment.
Digitisation makes customised education possible: offering students an optimal learning experience, at their own level, manner and pace. Digitisation also supports blended learning (partly on campus and partly online). There is an increasing need for opportunities for informal online collaboration among students.
The campus and the campus experience are the foundation of studying at the UvA. The COVID-19 crisis has provided a lot of experience about the impact and (im)possibilities of online education. These insights form the basis for deploying digitisation for an enriched teaching and learning environment, in which new technological possibilities are meaningfully deployed and the campus experience is central.
The separation between initial (Master's) education and lifelong learning is blurring. Students should be able to postpone their masters if they want to gain work experience first. And graduates need retraining or extra training, or need to know about the latest developments in their field. The knowledge gained in their studies is no longer sufficient for life. It is one of our social tasks to meet these needs and support innovation in society, sustainable employability and personal development.
In the coming years, the UvA will work on a broad range of education for adults, in anticipation of the expectation that this will become a statutory task. Lifelong learning is broader than just education for professionals. It also concerns making education more accessible to participants who prefer or need a different pace or form of education. Education can also be partially followed at other institutions, online or in other countries.
Important developments in the fields of data science and AI (artificial intelligence) are shaping the development of all disciplines. For example, data science offers tools to analyse the increased quantity and heterogeneity of data. We also see a growing importance of open science: the public sharing of scientific results in different stages of research, so that others can benefit from and contribute to research results.
The UvA wants to remain a broad frontrunner. To achieve this, scientific innovation is essential. The use of innovative research methods, fuelled by data science, requires investment in new areas of expertise, teamwork and a state-of-the-art infrastructure. From its public role, the UvA helps shape open science. Our independence is central to this.
Making education more flexible, requires a different set-up of systems and logistical support. Think, for example, of a personalised timetable or tailor-made study advice. Related trends are: an increasing need in organisations for control and insight (among others, through data) and more self-control among employees and students (important in the design of processes).
In the coming years, we will continue to work on effective standards for our processes and on cooperation, both between departments and between departments and faculties. Not everyone has to do exactly the same, but we will remove differences in operations between faculties and programmes if these hamper our agility and decisiveness.
To remain relevant, organisations must be able to respond quickly to changing needs. Therefore, agility is required. Organisations achieve this by organising their work differently ('agile' working) and by redesigning their systems and processes.
To make our organisation more agile, we need to find the balance between responding flexibly to opportunities on the one hand, and efficient, standardised processes on the other. Processes, business equipment and systems must help, not hinder, staff and students who work (or want to work) beyond the borders of their discipline. This requires an infrastructure that seamlessly connects with the needs of users. A different mindset is also needed: in formal organisations, new initiatives often end up at the back of the queue, while you actually want to embrace them. We must therefore promote internal entrepreneurship.
Data and AI for the UvA
The use of data is increasing strongly worldwide, also in the education and research domain. Both data from the own organisation and processes as well as data from (external) sources are brought together for analysis and interpretation for decision-making and optimisation of processes and services.
For the UvA, there are great opportunities in making better use of its own and external data. For example, student analytics can help prevent students from dropping out or choosing a suitable programme. But there are also concerns regarding the safety and ethical aspects of data use and analysis. For the UvA, this presents challenges, but also opportunities: we can play a social role in elaborating ethical aspects, for example.
The development of AI (artificial intelligence) is going very fast. New possibilities for innovative forms of intelligent learning, organising, planning and distributing are constantly emerging. By using AI, we can improve education and business processes. The UvA wants to fully exploit the possibilities of AI, while ensuring that the social consequences remain manageable.
Digitalisation must take place in a sustainable way Intelligent ICT solutions create new opportunities for achieving sustainability goals. At the same time, more digitisation means more energy consumption. This theme impacts all digital developments at the UvA.
Sustainability is one of the values that the UvA wants to put into practice. As a frontrunner, the UvA has a responsibility to support the transition to a sustainable society. This is reflected in our research and education, and also in our efforts to make our own ecological footprint sustainable. A white paper on sustainability lists measures to reduce our own footprint in the coming years. For ICT, the goal is to make our ecological footprint transparent and to achieve a 25% impact reduction on our equipment by 2026.
In addition to the "hard" side of digitisation, such as data, systems and infrastructure, there is increasing attention for issues such as public values, security, transparency and inclusiveness. Digitisation is making educational institutions increasingly dependent on commercial platforms.
Safeguarding the public values of higher education is a core task: we want to have a grip on our (own) data and data sovereignty. We also need to respond to increasing threats to our IT infrastructure: security is a critical precondition for universities that are increasingly dependent on digitisation. From our public role, we help shape open science and open educational resources. Our independence must also be central in the ongoing digitisation of research.
The corona crisis has shown more than ever that global collaboration in education and research is necessary to be ready for the challenges ahead. Not only on a professional level, but also for well-being and social cohesion. In addition, experience with hybrid working has highlighted the need for better ways of cooperating, both within the UvA and with external parties. This must be safely possible in an ecosystem that is equipped for it.
The UvA wants to strengthen collaboration between disciplines, so that it contributes to innovation in each individual field. In addition, more collaboration with external partners will help the UvA to realise its ambitions for scientific innovation. The relationship with our surroundings, the city and the region, is a special focus area in this respect. We can only benefit from the diversity within the UvA, and work well together across the boundaries of units and institutions, if the 'systems' are flexible enough to help rather than hinder people.
Worldwide, there is a growing cyber threat, also for universities. The impact of security incidents increases. After all, dependence on ICT is very high. The failure, disruption or manipulation of IT systems causes severe damage. This damage is both economic, in the case of loss of resources, and personal, in the case of loss of data. It also affects the organisation's reputation. Information security is therefore a precondition for the continuity of education and research.
Information security is an important pillar for guaranteeing the core values of the institution. The UvA is therefore strongly committed to protecting its data. In order to maintain the open character of the institution, it is crucial that information security risks are clear and that people consciously act accordingly.
Preserving digital sovereignty of universities and researchers
Universities and researchers are crucial for science and society. The research project "Information Law and the Digital Transformation of the University" examines the challenges of the European university sector in a digitising world, such as growing dependence on digital technologies and services, complex legislation for research, and dependence on external data for research. The research report also includes recommendations to universities, and to law- and policymakers.
Policy principles and frameworks
The UvA principles and frameworks for the digital agenda are intended to provide support and direction for choices in realising the digital agenda. They prevent discussions from being held over and over again and are a guide in shaping the digitalisation at the UvA.