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  • Dutch pioneering in Liberal Arts

    - With Erasmus University, another major Dutch institute sets up a University College. No other European country has pushed Liberal Arts as decisively. Hans Adriaansens, pioneer in this field, has now retired from Roosevelt Academy and will be wished farewell in a ceremony next week.

    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.

    Growing Popularity

    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 English.

    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 teaching."

    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 excellent teaching.

    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.