Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Opening academic year: spotlight on sustainability and diversity

'We can no longer take a neutral stance in the climate debate’

30 Aug 2019 10:58 | Communication

The new academic year was officially opened yesterday by Amsterdam’s Deputy Mayor, Sharon Dijksma and AUAS Executive Board Chairman Huib de Jong. In his speech, De Jong touched on the digital, social and ecological transformation underway and its unavoidable impact on our university of applied sciences. "One thing is certain: every degree programme will face this transformation in the upcoming period."

Master of ceremonies Katelijne Boerma – who just happens to be Amsterdam’s Bicycle Mayor, in addition to her role as degree programme manager and lecturer for the AUAS’ Sport Management & Business programme – addressed this topic early on as she kicked off the event. She asked the audience: who came here by bicycle today? Let’s not forget, Boerma reminded us, that the AUAS aims to be the most sustainable university of applied sciences in the Netherlands by 2030. Lots of hands were raised in response to her question.

AUAS in the city

Another theme addressed by Dijksma – responsible for Traffic and Transport, Water, and Air Quality at the City of Amsterdam – was the need for fewer vehicles in the city and the search for alternatives modes of transportation. In her speech, she recognised the key role that AUAS has in Amsterdam when it comes to envisioning the future of transportation. She hailed the AUAS’ field labs and the work underway by the professorship Psychology for Sustainable Cities. "You form the link between policy and practice, the connection to what’s happening in the real world," according to the Deputy Mayor.

Dijksma also referred to Amsterdam’s rich diversity, lauding the AUAS’ new summer prepatory programme for first-generation students, called Tune In. "Students who are the first in their families to attend higher education are finding their way at the AUAS. An initiative such as Tune In plays into this, and it’s crucial to strengthening ties with the city."

Staying relevant

During his speech, Executive Board Chairman Huib de Jong also looked back on the past academic year, which saw the AUAS receive a positive final decision from the NVAO (Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders) on its Institutional Audit (ITK). Thanks to this, the AUAS degree programmes are subject to a lighter form of accreditation during the next six years. It’s important, said De Jong "Because this ensures that we are able to minimise the beuraucratic burden as much as possible.”

However, this doesn’t mean that the next year is going to be a quiet one. If the AUAS is going to be relevant, and to stay relevant, in a quickly transforming world then some changes are required to the curriculum. De Jong mentioned themes such as the digitalisation and flexibilisation of education, which are in demand by the labour market. Various degree programmes are already adapting to this. De Jong also had a word of warning: "One thing is certain. Every degree programme will face this transformation in the upcoming period.”

Beyond the concrete developments, analyses and experiments, we are also facing a fundamental paradigm shift that the AUAS must address as a community. “Our city and region is not only undergoing a digital transformation. Just like the rest of the world, we’re also facing a social shift, in relation to diversity, as well as an ecological shift. And in our role as a university of applied sciences, we can no longer stay neutral on this front.”