José Sanders will be the new rector: ‘As a role model, it might be good that the rector is a woman for once’

27 Jun 2023

Now she is still the dean of the Faculty of Arts, but from October onwards she will be the new Rector Magnificus of Radboud University. José Sanders, professor of Communication in organisations, will be the first female rector in Nijmegen.

Exactly one hundred years after the establishment of the Radboud University, José Sanders (1965) will take over the role of rector from Han van Krieken. The handover will take place on the 17th of October during the dies celebrations in the Vereeniging.

Sanders has been dean of the Faculty of Arts since February 2022. Since 2013 she has been working for Radboud University. She studied Dutch language and Literature in Nijmegen and obtained her doctorate in Tilburg. In 2017 she became professor.

First woman

She will be the first female rector in the history of Radboud University. In a written response to the questions of Vox – Sanders does not want to look forward to her rectorate in a personal interview yet – she says she wants to be a good representation for everyone. ‘As a role model, it might be good that the rector is a woman for once, but I hope we move into a time where it does not matter what the gender, origin or whichever other feature is. It is about what the rector can and will do.’

Sanders sees it as an important job to preserve the trust of Nijmegen’s academic community in the board. She sees herself as a practical supervisor, who can also be on principle whenever necessary. ‘Important is that the rector propagates the feeling that every student and employee working on campus is really seen.’

‘The effects of the corona crisis have not yet passed’

The students and employees have had a difficult time in this aspect. Sanders documented the impact of the corona crisis for the university. ‘Those effects have not yet passed, and we should definitely keep paying attention to the students who still feel the consequences of it.’

Last year Sanders, who is catholic herself, joined Nijmegen’s delegation which travelled to Rome to see the canonization of Titus Brandsma. She still sees a clear connection between Nijmegen’s campus and its catholic roots, even though the bishops officially distanced themselves from Radboud University. ‘The challenge will be to continue to find ways in which we display the connection with our history and origin, which result from the catholic emancipation movements.’

Recognition and rewards

Another theme she mentions is the Recognition and Rewards programme of the university, which is meant to help scientists build a career in another way than through doing excellent research. Sanders: ‘How can careers within teams differ and how do we appreciate the individuality of each employee?’ She sees it as a job for the board to offer faculties specific means to do this.

Together with this, she flags the social safety as a problem which will continue to require attention. ‘How can we in a respectful and clear manner comment on each other and motivate each other within the role we have, as a student, professor, researcher, employer and board member?’


But above all, she wants to radiate optimism. ‘The Radboud University, and all other universities in our country, offers exquisite education in a lot of deviating areas, and it is expected that in the following years, there will be a strong interest in well-educated academics.’

By providing even more in this need, Sanders wants to oversee the university in its full breadth from her position as rector. ‘The interdisciplinary and interfaculty collaborations can grow a lot more in the coming years into new research projects and exciting education for students.’

Translated by Lara Nijhof

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