It is a challenging time for higher education in the Netherlands. With rising personnel and running costs and an active national plan to reduce the number of international students in the Netherlands, financial stability is becoming increasingly challenging, especially for a college whose only revenue is that of bachelor students (of which 65% are international). During his appointment at UCR, Smeekens will be focusing on the future of UCR, and on the long-term financial sustainability of the college in particular. He will do so within the established strategic plan 2022-2027. Due to his experience as board member in several (supervisory) boards and as Faculty Dean at Utrecht University, Smeekens is a seasoned administrator, well-equipped to take on the task at hand.

Whilst working on this specific assignment, Smeekens will be a full member of the Executive Board of UCR. Given the interim nature of his appointment, many day-to-day duties of the Dean are likely to be delegated to other academics within the college. This will allow Smeekens to focus his time on creating a sustainable future for the college.

On confirmation of his appointment, prof. dr. Smeekens said: “I look forward to working together with academics and staff to adapt UCR to changing operational conditions, thereby safeguarding the unique teaching environment UCR offers to its students.”.

Prof. dr. Henk Kummeling, Rector Magnificus at Utrecht University said: “The selection committee was unanimous in the opinion that he brings the experience, personality and decisiveness to realize the strategic plan, create a sustainable future position for the college, and allow UCR to flourish.”

Dr. Yvonne Kops, chair of the UCR Board of Trustees, said: “As Board of Trustees, we are very pleased that Sjef has accepted the appointment to the position of Dean. We are convinced that in his role of Interim Dean he will help shape an even more positive future for UCR.”

Prof. dr. Smeekens is Emeritus Professor of Molecular Plant Physiology at Utrecht University. He has been studying the signaling function of sugars as crucial factors for plant growth, development and reproduction for more than ten years, and published extensively in international journals. In addition to his research activities, Smeekens serves on the boards of several foundations, including as chair of the Supervisory Board of the NPEC national research program. Among others, he was vice-chairperson of the Top consortium for Knowledge and Innovation Agri&Food. From 2014 to 2020 he was vice-dean of Research at the Faculty of Science. In 2018 he was Acting Dean of the Faculty.

The Interim Dean is appointed for 7 months.