Opening of the 2017-2018 Academic Year: active citizenship and optimism

Active citizenship, trust and optimism are essential for a vital city. This is what guest speaker Ahmed Aboutaleb (the Mayor of Rotterdam) said at Erasmus University’s Opening of the new Academic Year on Monday, 4 September. For her part, the President of the University’s Executive Board, Kristel Baele, emphasised the crucial part played by education in the creation of ‘resilient citizens’.

Ahmed Aboutaleb

The theme of this year’s opening was ‘Building Vital Cities, Empowering Vital Citizens’, after one of the new ‘Erasmus Initiatives’, i.e., Erasmus University’s multi-disciplinary research and teaching projects.

In his speech, the Mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb, presented his vision of a vital city. He made reference to increasing urbanisation and its significant consequences. Aboutaleb 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 university plays an essential role there. “The university can lift the city, by adding more civilasation, wealth and optimism.”

Educating resilient citizens

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.”

The 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.” The new Community encourages the exchange of knowledge, so as to help faculties, lecturers and students translate their ideas and requirements into projects. “Together, we will work on the professionalisation of lecturers and on modern facilities, like a state-of-the-art studio.”

Pols also reported that the implementation of the new Erasmus Initiatives, another example of connectedness, is going according to plan. For instance, ‘Vital Cities & Citizens’ will kick off next year with no fewer than 23 research projects.

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.

All information can be found on the site of the Opening. 

Publication date: 5 September 2017

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