Annelien Bredenoord: “The world is not Dutch-speaking, and neither is Rotterdam”

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Geisje van der Linden

Annelien Bredenoord has been the Rector Magnificus of Erasmus University Rotterdam for almost a year now. With Rotterdam's Vers Beton magazine she spoke at length about topics such as creating societal impact, the growth of the number of students and threats to scientists. “Scientific knowledge is being curtailed. I find that worrying and it really is a big problem.”

Bredenoord has been actively engaged with making positive societal impact, the credo of our university, in her scientific career. Good and important research must also end up outside the university walls and be put into practice. “The knowledge itself is not enough. It now takes 8 to 10 years for a scientific publication to end up in society. That is a bad thing, especially when certain knowledge can improve the quality of life, save lives, or, for example, accelerate climate adaptation,” Bredenoord states.

“Health differences, but also socio-economic differences actually start before birth"

The university and the city of Rotterdam

As an example of the influence the Erasmus University Rotterdam has, she cites the research in Rotterdam-Zuid: “Health differences, but also socio-economic differences actually start before birth. In order to tackle this, you don't need to start with people in their twenties knocking on doors, but much earlier, with a preventative approach. To find the right solutions, you first must know very well where the problems are. That's part of the research we do. It's very much rooted in the city.”

With over 35,000 students, our university has a major impact on Rotterdam. Also topical is the great room shortage. “People think that's because of international students, but that is not true. Our Dutch-language course in public administration is growing the fastest, and we are fairly stable at 25 percent international students. Moreover, most of them come from the European Union. We are obliged to accept them. Even if we wanted to, there is nothing we can do about it. And we don't want to, because the international classroom is a hallmark of this university. Students cite this enrichment as a reason to study here. We have 178 nationalities among our staff. The world is not Dutch-speaking, and neither is Rotterdam, for that matter.”


A major problem in creating societal impact is the threats to scientists. “People are deprived of their say with threats and intimidation. Scientific knowledge is curtailed. I find that worrying,” Bredenoord said. “We want to encourage scientists to share their knowledge and go out into the world. But if that's so unsafe I understand that some think: Well, I'll just withdraw a bit. That's exactly the opposite of what we want.”

More information

Read the entire interview at Vers Beton (in Dutch).

Read more about prof.dr. Annelien Bredenoord.

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