Opening Academic Year 2017-2018

Building Vital Cities, Empowering Vital Citizens

The theme of this year’s Opening on Monday 4 September was ‘Building Vital Cities, Empowering Vital Citizens’, after one of the new ‘Erasmus Initiatives’.

In his speech, the Mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, presented his vision of a vital city. He advocated active citizenship: citizens who play an active role in the city. “Helping the city is also helping yourself. (..) People make the city.” He thinks innovation is not just something for high-end professionals. “I believe in co-creation. The best ideas can be found on the streets, and the best politicians are there to collect those ideas.”

Trust is required, according to the Rotterdam Mayor: from the government towards citizens, but also among citizens. “Creating trust by drinking a cup of coffee is the cheapest policy instrument we have.” Finally, Aboutaleb wants more optimism in the city.

The President of the Executive Board, Kristel Baele, pointed out the importance of education – including tertiary education – in creating ‘resilient citizens’. She discussed the principles presented in Erasmus University’s Educational Vision, which was released this year, such as expertise, innovation and inclusion. “These core values are closely linked to the international, multi-cultural and entrepreneurial metropolis that is Rotterdam.” Baele mentioned Rotterdam’s membership of the global network of ‘resilient cities’. “I’d like to request your help to build an inclusive university that is relevant to society. An innovative, diverse institution that educates students to become resilient citizens, in the spirit of Rotterdam.”

Rector Magnificus, Prof. Huibert Pols, who officially opened the new academic year, mainly focused on ‘connectedness’. For instance, he launched the Community for Learning and Innovation, “a bundling of forces in the fields of internationalisation, online education and innovation.” Pols also reported that the implementation of the new Erasmus Initiatives, another example of connectedness, is going according to plan.

Teodor Cataniciu was the ‘Student in the spotlight’ at the opening of the new academic year. In front of a full house, he was granted the opportunity to talk about his Restart Network (tech education for refugees). Several academic awards were presented, as well.