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Forging ties abroad

In 2017, Leiden University secured ties with numerous foreign partners. This is how we bring foreign talent to Leiden, and ensure our students and scientists can gain experience across borders. In this article, we look back on four foreign trips.

Morocco: new base for research into the Arab world

Additional knowledge about Morocco and the Arab world is crucial for international relations and Dutch society. This was emphasised by the former Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker and Mayor Aboutaleb of Rotterdam when they reopened the new Dutch Institute in Morocco (NIMAR) in Rabat on 1 March. This allows more Dutch students to study in Rabat.

In addition to education, the institute, which has been part of Leiden University since 2016, also facilitates research and is a centre of expertise for Dutch society. Bussemaker: ‘NIMAR can bring the worlds of the Netherlands and Morocco closer together by sharing knowledge about Morocco, the Arab world and Islam.’ Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker also signed an agreement with the Université Mohammed V in Rabat to collaborate on strengthening various fields, including the field of Museum Studies and African Studies.

The Moroccan Minister of Culture, Mohamed Amine Sbihi and former Dutch Minister of Science and Education Jet Bussemaker.

China and South Korea: working together with ‘academic powerhouses’

In May 2017, a Leiden University delegation visited two Chinese universities, Tsinghua University and Xi'an Jiaotong University. New partnership agreements were concluded with these institutions, including a joint Summer School and joint PhD programme, and the exchange of professors and researchers. ‘China has become an academic powerhouse and that is why Leiden University is keen to expand its cooperation with universities in this country,’ said Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker on the occasion.

In the same month, universities were also visited in South Korea, namely Sungkyunkwan University and Yonsei University. We looked into ways to broaden the possibilities for cooperation. In both countries, meetings with future students and Leiden alumni were also on the agenda.

Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker in conversation with Leiden University alumni in South Korea.

Mexico: broad delegation looking for overlap

A delegation from Leiden University visited Mexico in October to set up, reinforce and expand cooperation with universities and research councils in that country. Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker signed agreements with the largest university in the country and the most important research council. As a result, Mexicans can apply for scholarships to do their PhD studies in Leiden.

Latin America is one of the focus regions of Leiden University. Traditionally, the university has a huge amount of knowledge about the region, for example, in the sphere of ​​the cultures and languages ​​of indigenous peoples. The Rector Magnificus was thus also accompanied by a broad delegation of researchers who each sought cooperation with their Mexican counterparts in their own disciplines. Stolker: ‘Surprising combinations always arise in these situations that you, as a director, simply could not anticipate.’ 

PhD student Iván Rivera Guzmán explains the history of the ancient city of Teotihuacan.

Japan: ancient ties strengthened

The visit to Japan in November was full of ceremonies and commemorations that strengthened the ancient bond with the archipelago. For example, the Leiden delegation attended the official opening of the Dejima bridge. Dejima is a small island in Nagasaki and, from 1641 to 1859, it was the location of an important Dutch trading post. It was one of the few places where the Western world and Japan came into contact with each other.

The Leiden delegation was also present at the signing of the Leiden-Nagasaki town twinning by Leiden mayor Henri Lenferink and his Japanese counterpart. With the signing, a long-lasting bond of friendship was converted into an official city bond. The strong relationship with Leiden is very logical: Leiden University is the only Dutch university offering a Japanese study programme, the city has a Japan museum, and in 2017, a brand new Asian Library was opened

The Dejima bridge