Universiteit Leiden

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First batch of students BA Urban Studies receive diploma

On Wednesday 1 September, the first thirteen students of the new BA Urban Studies at Leiden University, received their diplomas in person in The Hague. During a festive graduation ceremony, they were congratulated by rector magnificus Hester Bijl.

The English taught bachelors programme Urban Studies is a new programme: the graduates started their studies in 2018. Urban Studies is aimed at solving major urban issues, addressing themes as the sustainable city, the multicultural city, the safe city and the healthy city. The programme is also very special because it is a collaboration of five Leiden University faculties, which makes for a truly multidisciplinary study.

Beauty and future of cities

The first bachelors Urban Studies - mostly coming from outside of The Netherlands – were addressed by rector magnificus Hester Bijl at this special occasion: ‘In our highly developed part of the world, we can still cope with the consequences of rapid urbanisation. In the 'mega-cities' of the Global South, the situation is different. In our cities too, we see problems: growing inequality, criminality, environmental pollution. But the problems are modest compared to those of many big cities in the South. And it is important that programmes such as Urban Studies pay more explicit attention to this. More than has been the case so far, we must also make our knowledge and expertise available to the people in the cities of less wealthy, less prosperous countries. (…) I assume that during your studies, you were above all inspired by the lasting vitality, the entrepreneurial spirit, the beauty and especially the future of cities. After all, there is still so much to do. There are still so many opportunities to make use of the knowledge and skills you acquired at university. We all agree: cities must become greener, healthier, safer and more liveable places.’

Interconnected problems

Senior university lecturer Frans Willem Korsten of the Humanities faculty emphasizes that the programme is unique because of all the various disciplines involved. ‘Urban design, social geography, architecture, social sciences with a strong technical component… each discipline brings its own methods and views. I think this is very important, as modern urban problems are often interconnected. For instance, this year we looked at Jakarta, where mobility and pollution go hand in hand. Every day, the city is visited by 3 million people, so this is on top of the actual inhabitants of the city. Because of all the transportation methods, a massive cloud of pollution looms over the city.’

Diverse individual experiences

André Gerrits, the first Chair of the programme  thinks that the internationality of Urban Studies is one of its biggest strengths. ‘Wherever students are from, no matter what their background is, they all experienced the challenges big cities offer. It’s the combination of these diverse, individual experiences which make Urban Studies so interesting.’

Student Erik Kofi Owusu, (Dutch/ Ghanese) is one of the first BA Urban Studies graduates: ‘I have gained this way of evaluating and viewing cities’

I look back at it as a meaningful experience where I was able to develop my academic skills and knowledge of the world and its future cities. Whenever I visit a city, it is always interesting to see the different ways that problems are dealt with and how the city is built. I have gained this way of evaluating and viewing cities through the courses I did in urban studies, and I am grateful for that. (…) This year, I am starting a MSc Urban Governance at Erasmus University. After this I might do another master (Urban Economic Development: Innovation and entrepreneurship at Erasmus University, or, Governance and Economics at Leiden University.) If not, I will see what the job market has to offer. I do think I might work within the municipality or within a company of young minds willing to make a change within cities. At some point I will be going back to Ghana as well to contribute to its growing urban development!’

Pictures by Chris Gorzeman

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