Rector Magnificus Rutger Engels on Celebrating Differences
Studying at a diverse university enriches your life.
Could you tell us what diversity and inclusion means to you at Erasmus University Rotterdam?
This is a big university in a big city and it’s very important to me that we do well in reflecting the city. We want to mirror its cultural diversity. A lot of our students come from Rotterdam and its surrounding, but we only attract a part of the region’s demographic. If we do not reach students because they don’t want to study here, that’s fine. But if they would like to study here but do not receive the right encouragement to do so: that’s where we should come in and try to change that. We have good outreach-programmes in place where we go to schools and stimulate and educate students on the possibilities in higher education.
And once we have welcomed the students, we want to accommodate and stimulate diversity and really be an inclusive place. There is still work that needs to be done in that aspect. We need to create awareness among students, staff and faculty on how to create an inclusive classroom, student life and campus.
What is the role of international students in a diverse university?
We are proud of our international students. I think the Erasmus University is a great environment for both international and Dutch students, to prepare them for their future.
How does Erasmus University accommodate students with functional impairments for example?
There is still a lot of work to be done to accommodate those students on all different levels, from the Examination Board to faculties to how the campus is designed. This is a priority for us.
How do you see diversity at Erasmus University Rotterdam on a day-to-day basis?
I love that there are people with diverse backgrounds in the University Council. That enriches our discussions and thereby the advice we receive, and the decisions that get made in the end. The diversity of the University Council contributes to the way this University prepares itself for the future. I would like for international students to voice their opinions more. Not just in the University Council and Faculty Councils, but also in student associations.
Could you explain how Erasmus University Rotterdam celebrates differences?
I’ve seen different universities in the Netherlands, and the cultural heterogeneity we have at Erasmus University is greater than many other universities. We do not have the most international students, we have international students from many different backgrounds, combined with the diversity of our own Dutch students, especially from this region. By attending classes with students, from other countries, who are also diverse in the sense of religion, culture, gender et cetera, you will create a richer discussion and thus a richer education. When I studied in Groningen, I was primarily surrounded by people with a similar background to my own. If I studied at the Erasmus University Rotterdam as it is today, I would have been confronted with a richer palette of thoughts and opinions. That helps to shape you – not only in the way you study, but also as a person.