Is ‘valorization’ the same as ‘valorisatie’?

Nothing like a bit of bickering about language in the early morning. Yesterday, during the meeting of the Executive Committee, TiU International’s Tobias Klein said that the use of the English word ‘valorization’ concerning Higher Education is a bit off. “Why not ‘Company Partnerships’? This is ultimately what many people mean by it.”Klein said that the word ‘valorization’ in English is not really the same as the Dutch word ‘valorisatie’, even though the university treats it as the same word. In the English version of the Strategic Plan, the board explains how ‘valorization’ works in practice: “In pursuit of valorization, one of our core tasks, we intend to intensify our interaction with our environment, alumni, and other stakeholders. As part of this objective, we are striving to become an enterprising, externally-oriented university that is open to partnerships and that distinguishes itself through Social Innovation.”

The university names ‘valorization’ as one of its core tasks because the government wants it to. In 2005, the Ministry of Education wrote a letter (in Dutch) that reads: “The second goal is creating added social value, based on university knowledge, hereinafter referred to as ‘valorisatie’. We apply a description that is more broad than the one named in the Science budget 2004. There, ‘valorisatie’ is described as: “the conversion of scientific research results to economic value”. In short, next to research and education, ‘valorisatie’ is the third task that universities have to focus on. They create economic and social value from research done at universities.

Klein now says that we should think about other expressions, like ‘Company Partnerships’: “This is ultimately what many people mean by it. Companies give money and we do something with it, more or less as partners.” He said this for two reasons. “First of all, valorization is not really as commonly used outside The Netherlands as it is here. I understand that in Dutch the word is ‘valorisatie’, but it’s a little bit of a false friend.”

To support this, he refers to this Wikipedia page. There, we can read that valorization is a Marxist term, meaning “the increase in the value of capital assets through the application of value-forming labour in production”. The article does contain a paragraph on ‘valorization’ in academia, though, that roughly fits the use of the word here at the university. Klein says: “Maybe somebody from The Netherlands has put in the parts on Wikipedia that concern valorization for the academic world. It is not clear at all whether what people on campus mean by ‘valorization’ is the same as is written on the page for academia, it sounds a bit off to me. Besides, just try to google ‘Harvard’ or ‘MIT’ or ‘Stanford’ together with ‘valorization’. Nothing much turns up.”

“Thinking about it, I think an office by the name Company Parnerships and Alumni Relations could be a good idea,” says Klein. “That even works with the new mindset propagated by the rector, by the way; ‘Advancing Society’ instead of ‘Understanding Society’.”


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