‘Focus on the questions that matter’

We need to focus on the questions that matter, make a difference and nurture talent. These were the key points of Professor Rutger Engels’s inaugural address as Erasmus University Rotterdam’s new Rector Magnificus during the Transfer of Rectorship on Friday, 15 June 2018.

Outgoing Rector Magnificus Professor Huibert Pols presented Rutger Engels with the chain of office during the academic ceremony.

In his first speech as Rector, Engels emphasised that universities need to invest in their social relevance and responsibility toward society. Among other things, this means challenging students so that they come to understand which issues are in need of a solution. And the city of Rotterdam can serve as a source of inspiration: “This is what we can learn from this city: endless curiosity, the will to change, to do better all the time. To answer questions that matter, to make a difference, to nurture talent. I want to be the Rector who makes that possible.” Engels also thanked the members of the academic community for the warm welcome they had given him.

Theme of the Transfer of Rectorship was ‘Making the Most of Talent’. In the new Rector’s view, the university should start cherishing this talent even before students step through its gates: “We have to reach out to pupils from secondary schools, even from primary schools, to get them interested in science. The Science Education Hub – ‘Wetenschapsknooppunt’ – is a very good start.”

The two guest speakers, professor dr. Liesbeth van Rossum (Erasmus MC, Center for Healthy Weight) and dr. Payal Arora (associate professor, Department of Media & Communication), also offered distinct perspectives on the ‘Talent’ theme.


Outgoing Rector Magnificus Huibert Pols took his farewell speech as an opportunity to look back on his career. In passing, Pols mentioned the importance of taking responsibility and working together: “We have taken definitive steps to connect.” He also argued for ‘free range space' so that we can bring together “mind and matter, problem and solution, theory and practice” In Pols’s words: “Space to let our creative juices flow, space to give our imagination free rein. (..) That is essential for an academic climate and academic success. That is why I propose turning our campus into a farm for free range academics. A place where you can go at your own pace in order to grow.”

Pols was presented with the Ad Fontes by the Kristel Baele, President of the Executive Board. This medal is awarded to individuals who have rendered outstanding services to the university. He also received a cheque of 28.946 euros for the Huibert Pols Talent Fund. In her speech, Baele honoured Pols as “an exceptionally good rector and an exceptionally fine colleague”.

Click this link to view the video made about Huib Pols, which includes contributions from Mayor Aboutaleb, Rector Magnificus Carel Stolker (Leiden University) and the outgoing rector’s two sons. Also check this short introduction to new Rector Rutger Engels. 

To view all speeches as well as photos of the ceremony, visit: www.eur.nl/transferofrectorship

More information

Press Office Erasmus University Rotterdam, +31 10 4081216 or press@eur.nl