By Jonathan Seib
A while ago we met Prof. Hans Adriaansens, the founding father of University College Utrecht and Roosevelt. For nineteen years Adriaansens has successfully tried to establish the concept of Liberal Arts and Sciences in the Netherlands. His success did not go unnoticed and he got the opportunity to start University Colleges all over the world from China to Saudi Arabia and currently in Haarlem.
The two pillars
According to Adriaansens the University College concept is based on two pillars: small scale education and Liberal Arts and Sciences. This means that a Liberal Arts and Sciences program that is taught in enormous lecture halls is not a University College. Neither is a small scale program that only focusses on the natural sciences without providing the students with a broad academic core for instance. With more and more University Colleges being established in the Netherlands, one should not forget the two principles that define what a true University College is.
However, apart from small scale education and Liberal Arts and Sciences, there are various other factors that are of great value to University College education. Most of it has to do with the term ‘education’, which is often translated incorrectly. Whereas in the Netherlands ‘education’ just stands for just teaching, the actual English definition is much broader. It is the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgement, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life. Thus, instead of giving mass lectures in rooms that can hold more people than the average theatre, universities should provide students with education in the broadest sense of the term.
What is education?
It all starts with small classrooms, personal attention and class discussions, but also goes beyond the scope of the classroom. Living together with other students, doing internships and student jobs and participating in clubs and societies, is just as important. It is therefore a shame that the Dutch government abolished its monthly basic grant for students last year and replaced it with a renewed student loan system. For this reason, (insert number here)% of the student population is still living with their parents instead of moving into a student house, since they can simply not afford it any more.
Especially in cities like Amsterdam, where students pay at least €600 for a room the size of a walk-in closet, the abolishment of the basic student grant was a slap in the face for the general education of the student population. This is the reason why most University Colleges in the Netherlands provide their students with some kind of student housing, ideally with a separate University College campus as AUC has for example.
In a few years there will be thirteen University Colleges in the Netherlands. Although it took him more than fifteen years, educational reformer Adriaansens has ignited a true revolution in Dutch higher education. With his “show, don’t tell” mentality, visionary Adriaansens has proved all the education bureaucrats that tried to thwart him wrong.