Universiteit Leiden

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New programme brings education 'to the midst of society'

In November a new extracurricular programme will begin: the Impact Challenges. Students will work together in small groups to solve problems, put forward by partner organisations. In this way, they train their practical skills and make a contribution to society.

The Impact Challenges are intended for master’s and third year bachelor’s students, who want to look, “beyond the boundaries of their own discipline,” according to Bram Hoonhout. As coordinator of the Honours College, he is involved in the organization of the new programme. In addition to collaborating with others, participants also learn project-based working. “That way they are well prepared for the labour market.”

An important aspect of the Impact Challenges is the contact with partner organisations. “We want to give students the opportunity to use their skills outside the classroom as well,” explains Hoonhout. “By working together with partners in the field on real world problems, they can make an immediate impact with their ideas.” This year the participants will work together with two organisations: KPN and the Leiden municipality.

The Most Sustainable Kilometre

In the Citizen Science Challenge students will conduct research in the context of ‘the most sustainable kilometre in the Netherlands,’ a project led by the municipality of Leiden to make the area surrounding the central station more sustainable. A complex undertaking, says university lecturer Anne Land-Zandstra, who co-ordinates this challenge. “There are all kinds of questions that can be explored together with residents, travelers and users of the area.”

This is after all what citizen science is all about: working together with citizens, so that science and society can make progress. “What you do actually contributes something to the city where you study, I think that would be interesting for students.”

The Internet of Things

At KPN they are taking a different approach. Students will also conduct research there, but on two different topics, including The Internet of Things (IoT). That is the entirety of devices that exchange data with each other via the internet. Titia Houweling, IoT Business Consultant at KPN, explains that the IoT market is developing at lightning speed. “We see new markets and market parties emerging as a result of digitalization.”

KPN is looking for a consultancy partner in this turbulent market. Which partner, is what the students will have to help answering. Houwelig: “We would like to know which criteria are important for commercial partnerships. To this end, the students will do quantitative and qualitative research. They will then test these assumptions in practice.”


This practical side fits well with the philosophy of the Impact Challenges, says Hoonhout. “As University we want to stand in the midst of society, this form of education helps us to do so.”

The Impact Challenges begin in November and run till the Summer of 2022. Upon successful completion, participants will receive a certificate and have their Impact Challenge mentioned on their diploma supplement as an extracurricular course. 

Interested students can apply for the Impact Challenges till 17 October. The classes on offer are:

Check out the studentenwebsite for more information on the application procedure. 

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