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Festive opening of the college year in The Hague: strong ambitions for the new year

How can we make sure that The Hague becomes even more of a city of education and knowledge? This was the theme during the festive opening of the college year in The Hague on 30 August. Filled with ambition, representatives from all The Hague's educational institutions, the municipality of The Hague and of course students got the new college year in the city off to a good start.

It was a real celebration: the fifth time that a new college year was opened in The Hague. It's an important moment for reflection, science journalist Eveline van Rijswijk, who was chairing the day's events, told the audience. 'When I was a student, a new academic year felt like a fresh start. Much more than New Year's Eve, it's a time for new ambitions and good intentions.'  

Vice-Rector Hester Bijl talking with the audience at the opening of the 2018-2019 college year in The Hague.
Vice-Rector Hester Bijl talking with the audience at the opening of the 2018-2019 college year in The Hague.

Using knowledge in the city

Vice-Rector Hester Bijl immediately recognised that feeling. 'I, too, think in academic years rather than in calendar years.' This year more than 5,000 students at Leiden University will start one of the many bachelor's and master's programmes taught in The Hague. The presence of Leiden University in the royal city will grow even further, Bijl predicted. 'With our teaching and research, we already reflect The Hague's profile as the international city of peace and security and as a centre of politics. In addition, we also focus on metropolitan issues, both social and in the field of healthcare.’ Our ambition for the future is to put all this knowledge  to even better use for the whole city, by getting students to work on more projects in the different neighbourhoods, and then to translate the research findings into practical solutions within the city. Referring to a popular local cartoon character 'Harry from The Hague', Bijl commented, 'Harry, a caricature of a true local, also has to see that the university has benefits for him personally.'  

The Hague: city of knowledge and learning

For Leonard Geluk, chair of the Executive Board of The Hague University of Applied Sciences, this was his fifth opening ceremony: he has been present all five of the previous ceremonies. This year, too, he has high ambitions for the new year. 'Let's make sure that when you type "knowledge city" or "university city" in Google,  The Hague will be at the top of all the hits!’ Geluk wants to see even more collaboration between the municipality and the local educational institutions. 'We have to decide our goals together, and create a knowledge agenda to keep on improving The Hague as a community.’ Researchers and students from both universities can work together on urgent themes within the city, Geluk commented. 'We need to experiment to  determine the best way to use fundamental research in practice.  The whole city is our lab.'  

Hester Bijl and Leonard Geluk (chair of the Executive Board of The Hague University of Applied Sciences) are always looking for new ways collaborating in education in The Hague.
Hester Bijl and Leonard Geluk (chair of the Executive Board of The Hague University of Applied Sciences) are always looking for new ways collaborating in education in The Hague.

Good and accessible education

An important aim for both universities is to safeguard inclusive education, to make sure that good education is accessible for everyone. Bijl: 'On Saturdays, students at Leiden University College teach children from two of The Hague's less privileged neighbourhoods, the Transvaal and Schilderswijk areas. All in all, we offer a very broad range of teaching, from these lessons for very young children, right up to top-level master's programmes. But we want to develop still more teaching activities that will penetrate to the very roots of the city.' A new Educational Hub that is being set up will bring together all the city's educational activities, including those at universities of applied sciences and other knowledge institutions. 

Working together for the good of the city

Collaboration and connection are the two prime themes for education in the city, according to Saskia Bruijnes, The Hague's alderman for education. 'The Hague is exceptionally fertile ground for higher education, and the city is fast evolving to become a fully fledged university city. But, past performance is no guarantee for the future.' It's vital that the municipality, the educational institutions and other partners continue to seek one another out. An important task for the municipality is to create a good environment for students. 'An environment that is good for students is also good for the city. Students - and the knowledge institutions that are part of a student city -  will help us meet the global challenges facing us. Let us work together in the coming years on high-quality education for The Hague and the opportunities that will bring the city.' Raising a toast to the collaboration between all the partners, the alderman officially opened the new college year in The Hague. 

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