The number of Liberal Arts colleges in the Netherlands continues
to grow with the Erasmus University College to open its doors
in Rotterdam in 2013. In the last 14 years, six universities set up
comprehensive Liberal Arts colleges or individual tracks. No other
European country has pushed so decisively in this direction.
Liberal Arts were first introduced to the Netherlands in 1997
when Hans Adriaansens pioneered with the creation of the Utrecht University College. In the beginning,
proponents of this approach faced harsh criticism from their peers
as it fundamentally questioned the Dutch understanding of higher
education being egalitarian.
Nevertheless, the greater focus on interdisciplinary excellence
gained popularity over time. This resulted in the establishment of
the University College Maastricht (2002), Roosevelt
Academy (2004), Amsterdam University College (2008), the
Liberal Arts track by Tilburg University (2008), and Leiden University
College The Hague (2010).
With Erasmus University Rotterdam, another major Dutch
university is following suit. "This new, broader education
perfectly fits our ambition to foster internationalization and
excellence in higher education," commented the university's rector
magnificus, Prof. Henk Schmidt.
American higher education - the Dutch way
Inspired by the American approach to higher education, Liberal
Arts colleges let students choose courses from a variety of
disciplines, while giving them more time to decide on their
specialization. Classes are smaller and mostly taught in
Unlike other Dutch universities, Liberal Arts colleges also
impose entrance requirements with aptitude tests, interviews and
motivation letters being part of the application process. Still,
these programs differ in two ways from their American counterparts:
tuition fees are lower (around €1800) and students graduate after 3
years instead of 4.
In his function as dean of the Roosevelt Academy, Dutch Liberal
Arts pioneer Hans Adriaansens had great influence on this
philosophy. To him "excellence is not simply about selecting
excellent students. Rather it is about the responsibility of
universities to offer the right context for excellent
Messi and Cruyff in a swimming pool
"If you throw Messi, Cruyff and me in a swimming pool, you will
see that they also won't be able to play better soccer than me. And
this is because a swimming pool is not the right place where they
can show their talent," commented Adriaansens during his speech at the Harvard/Roosevelt seminar on
This seminar is part of a cooperation between Roosevelt Academy
and the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning
at Harvard University. Both institutes have close ties with ongoing
academic exchange as in 2009 when Derek Bok visited the academy to
teach a Masters class. For next week, Roosevelt Academy has
organized a farewell ceremony as Hans Adriaansens retired from his
position as dean.