Confirmation of IdEx Bordeaux : interview of Manuel Tunon de Lara
Manuel Tunon de Lara, President of the University of Bordeaux and of the IdEx Bordeaux Board of Management, concerning the report of the international jury and the confirmation of the Initiative of excellence by the French government.
You have just reviewed the international jury's evaluation report on IdEx Bordeaux, which was confirmed on April 29th. What are the high points?
This evaluation report concerns nine criteria deemed essential by the jury. The report includes a grade for each criterion (A, B, or C), explanations, and the jury's recommendations. Our project has received a very good evaluation (7 As and 2 Bs) and the comments highlight the irreversible momentum generated in creating a research university that meets international standards. Our main strengths remain scientific excellence, ambitious programs, ties with research organizations, which are described as "excellent", and our successful efforts to boost our appeal. IdEx's governance and the management itself received very positive evaluations and our steering methods were pointed to as "benchmark practices".
This same jury's 2011 recommendations warned about two potential weaknesses: the link with the socio-economic environment and international programs. Have improvements been made since?
While our relationship with the socio-economic environment was indeed one of our weak points in 2011, today we have good grades in the areas of innovation and partnership, which include corporate partnerships. The role played by technology transfer acceleration companies, the implementation of the "UB friendly" program, and the increase in equity resources provided by businesses were positive indicators. However, the jury recommends increasing these efforts: we are already working on an innovation department as well as partnerships dedicated to relationships with businesses. Progress in furthering our internationalization, another of our weakness in 2011, was also noted by the jury, particularly in our program offerings. This still remains a major area for improvement, though the report does validate our chosen strategy and encourages us to continue in this way, including the Euro-regional axis.
A new point seems to have appeared on the evaluation rubric: campus life. Is this a new component of the IdEx program?
This item didn't appear as such in the original project but various measures already addressed campus life either directly or indirectly (mobility, ambassadors program, arts and sciences festival...) The jury viewed this as an area for improvement and considered it necessary to develop a program and precise monitoring indicators. The alumni policy and measures to improve the "sense of belonging to the University of Bordeaux community" are pointed out as essential.
Does the jury's evaluation correspond to your own analysis of IdEx's progress since 2011?
At the end of the trial period we set an intermediate goal of "creating conditions for success" and based on the evaluation report, I believe we have reached this goal.
We were impressed by the jury's in-depth work to fully assess our evolution, and we identify entirely with the elements highlighted in the report. I am not surprised, because the quality of discussions during the audition demonstrated a solid understanding of the situation, which the report reflects in significant detail.
IdEx's being supported by a merged university (like Marseille and Strasbourg) seems to have greatly influenced the jury's decision. Was it penalized by the fact that the merger at Bordeaux is incomplete?
The merged universities project better satisfies international standards and helps establish more effective governance. In this respect, the Strasbourg, Marseille and Bordeaux projects are similar and may have helped implement programs and reach certain goals more quickly. Questions about the university's identity, image, a single signature for scientific publications, and sense of belonging are critical issues for IdEx.
As for Bordeaux, the jury was informed from the beginning that the merger was incomplete and did not question us about the subject at all. However, the matter of engineering schools and Science Po (Editor's note: that were supposed to merge with the university in the project) was discussed during the audition and had been brought up by the Site Visit Committee. Therefore, along with the directors of these institutions, we were able to explain our strategy for developing closer ties.
Will the jury's recommendations change IdEx's future pursuits or require program modifications?
On the whole the recommendations confirm our chosen strategy for the first four years and encourage us to continue along this path. Our aim is to exploit the university's established research potential, whether for excellence research, our program offerings, or our role in the innovation ecosystem. In terms of research, the University of Bordeaux is ranked (ARWU, Leiden, etc.) in the majority of scientific fields, but like many French universities, it does not have a high profile in the field of human and social sciences (Editor's note: apart from archeology). This is a focus area we plan to address first and foremost by developing multidisciplinarity. As we discussed with the jury during the audition, this must also be considered from the perspective of appeal, by developing original, emerging fields that will create a ripple effect for our existing niches of excellence, as we have recently accomplished in the field of philosophy of science.
The jury did not ask us to modify our future pursuits or scope. However, they were very focused on the university's medium-term forecast and questioned us in detail about the strategic plan (U25) we are currently developing.
14 Jury Recommendations
- strengthen the policy for a single "University of Bordeaux" signature
- continue ongoing improvement of doctoral programs
- include social and human sciences more widely in scientific activity within the scope of excellence
- optimize digital solutions for educational innovation, particularly by extending MOOC offerings
- increase English language program offerings
- continue the adopted innovation strategy by extending it to all scientific fields
- step up efforts for patent activity and start-up creation
- consider long-term expansion of the University of Bordeaux's research and educational programs in the field of social and human sciences
- clarify rules for recognition of qualifications obtained from University of Bordeaux partners
- develop an integrated "campus life" program dedicated to improving student quality of life and the sense of belonging to the University of Bordeaux community
- strengthen the University of Bordeaux's leadership on a Euro-regional territory level, in partnership with the Basque universities
- continue and develop strategic cooperation with a selected number of international institutions
- diversify and strengthen opportunities for improving university appeal and talent management by taking advantage of all regulatory options available to the university
- continue ongoing communication efforts about IdEx's objectives and achievements in order to maintain the strong degree of engagement and collective momentum