Marian Thunnissen appointed as endowed professor Lifelong Learning with and within Higher Education

From 1 January 2024, Marian Thunnissen is appointed as endowed professor of Lifelong Learning with and within Higher Education at the Utrecht University School of Governance (USG). The chair is established by Fontys. Thunnissen will be affiliated to Utrecht University for one day a week for a period of five years. The appointment marks a special collaboration between Utrecht University and Fontys, combining both academic research and applied research and impact. Thunnissen states: The different institutes in higher education can learn learn a lot from each other, and this bundling of expertise will also contribute to fulfilling the societal task and challenge higher education has to fulfil regarding Lifelong Learning.

Marian Thunnissen

Marian Thunnissen has an impressive track record of more than 25 years of experience in research and teaching. Her research mainly focuses on the way organisations support the employability and careers of their employees. In 2015, she obtained her PhD from Utrecht University with a study on talent management in Dutch academia. After her PhD, she remained a part-time employee at the Utrecht University School of Governance.

Since 2016, Thunnissen has been a professor at Fontys, where she and her research group study the identification, development and deployment of talent in the workplace. Her personal interest lies in the talent issues higher education institutes are confronted with. She is also leading professor of the Fontys Knowledge Centre for Lifelong Learning in which more than ten research groups and strategic programmes together with partners in practice and research conduct research and develop interventions regarding the theme of Lifelong Learning.

Crucial moment

With this appointment as endowed professor, Marian Thunnissen takes an important step in promoting Lifelong Learning in society. A step at a crucial moment, because the societal challenge to realise Lifelong Learning is bigger than ever. Thunnissen explains: Due to developments on the labour market, it is very important that working professionals continue to develop themselves, even after graduation. Higher education - universities of applied sciences and universities - play a crucial role in this. It is the task of the endowed Chair to conduct research into this matter and to strengthen the role of higher education through knowledge from that research. At the same time, these higher education institutes are employers themselves, and have to play a role in the development of their own staff. We want to conduct research on that too.

Combining academic and higher vocational education

The appointment of Marian Thunnissen as endowed professor also marks a special collaboration between Utrecht University and Fontys, combining both Academic Education and research and Higher Vocational Education and applied research. Not only can the different institutes in higher education learn a lot from each other, but this bundling of expertise will also contribute to fulfilling the societal task that higher education has to fulfil regarding Lifelong Learning, Thunnissen says.

As the he Fontys endowed Chair of Lifelong Learning with and in Higher Education Thunnissen will focus on supervising PhD students, conducting research and creating impact.

Olivia Kramers, director of Fontys HRM and Applied Psychology sees great value in the chair: There is a great need for both knowledge and advice on Lifelong Learning within and outside higher education. Conducting research in cooperation with higher education institutions and the active dissemination of knowledge increases the expertise within these institutions, but also strengthens the ability to proactively act with regard to the institutes role in Lifelong Learning.

Lifelong Learning and Utrecht University

Prof Mirko Noordegraaf, head of the Utrecht University School of Governance (USG), is pleased with the appointment: It underlines the importance of Lifelong Learning and also of making connections between academic and the broader societal context on the one hand  and between the university and societal partners, in this case Fontys, on the other hand. That fits with modern knowledge exchange and actions around pressing societal issues.

Chief Open Science of Utrecht University, Prof Paul Boselie, also Professor of Strategic Human Resource Management at USG, on Marian Thunnissen’s appointment: It is a real pleasure that Marian Thunnissen will hold this special chair. This is one of the endowed chairs strengthening USG research and connects the expertise of our department in the fields of education and societal impact. The chair is also part of the Strategic Human Resource Management chair group. On behalf of the School of Governance, I wish Marian Thunnissen an inspiring start and success in her new role.

Moreover, Lifelong Learning in higher education is related to the continuous development of employees in higher education itself. This is closely aligned with the Strategic HRM theme of sustainable employability, explicitly taking into account the organisational perspective. The USG strategic accents of inclusion and diversity will also be explicitly included in this, Paul Boselie adds.

Marian Thunnissen is an expert on talent management, specifically in the context of higher education, he continues. With her expertise and (national and international) networks, she can make an important contribution to the further development of the SHRM chair group, USG and Utrecht University.

The Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance and Utrecht University are already actively engaged in activities regarding Lifelong Learning. For example, in educational programmes for Professionals), via the Centre for Academic Teaching (CAT) and through the focus area Higher Education Research as well as through the strategic research theme Institutions for Open Societies (Future of Work platform). The new endowed chair can contribute to both our knowledge and expertise on Lifelong Learning and how we shape that as a faculty and university.