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Opening Academic Year

The Opening of the Academic Year is celebrated annually in the Pieterskerk in Utrecht on the first Monday of the new academic year, usually at the beginning of September. Each year, one of the chair groups chooses a theme and provides a substantive programme. The rector welcomes the new students and opens the new year, after which a guest speaker gives a short lecture. During the celebration, music and columns by students and young researchers can be heard.

Opening celebrations from recent years: 

2023: Space for meaning

Monday 4 September's Opening had as its theme Ruimte voor betekenis ('Space for Meaning'), with guest speaker Denker des Vaderlands Marjan Slob. It is quite a quest how to hold your own as a thinking and feeling human being in the face of the major problems of our time. Two familiar responses - self-hatred and complacency - do not satisfy in any case. For they each, in their own way, miss reality. And reality is precisely what we urgently need to love. Marjan Slob highlighted what this call requires of us, and how a humanist university can help in this regard. Philosopher and researcher at the University for Humanistic Studies Simon van der Weele spoke a column about the place of meaning in the research he and Femmianne Bredewold are doing into a meaningful life for people with severe intellectual disabilities, who are unable to explain how they experience the world.

2022: Bridging the gap (in Dutch)

The opening was dedicated to the theme Bridging the gap, closing gaps between people. The keynote was given by Laurentien van Oranje. From her experiences with people duped by the 'benefits affair', she gave a new perspective on connection and equality. Rector Joke van Saane's opening speech was about listening and being prepared to take the other person at least as seriously as ourselves. 

2021: Valuable knowledge

Special guests were Ingrid van Engelshoven, Minister of Education, Culture and Science, and Mardjan Seighali, the new president of the Humanistisch Verbond and director of the Foundation for Refugee Students UAF. The theme of the festive opening was 'Valuable knowledge'. Van Engelshoven: 'What makes us solidary instead of solitary?'

2020: Recognition and rewards

More emphasis on quality rather than quantity, more attention to differences in the qualities of university lecturers and teamwork, and an open connection to society. In the national project 'Recognition and rewards, the collaborating universities and research institutes are looking for a new balance in valuing and stimulating employees. This Opening of the Academic Year was the starting signal for a programme in which this important theme will be given concrete form at our university.

2019: Transfer of rectorship

The chain of office that Prof. Joke van Saane received from departing rector Gerty Lensvelt-Mulders was designed thirty years ago by goldsmith Gijs Bakker and consists of a square and a circle, they symbolise rationality and emotion. There are philosophies of science that argue that the two are incompatible. Science is objective, emotion should stay far away from it. The departing and coming rector pondered the question of how the University of Humanistic Studies, as a university of philosophy of life, tries to involve both. 

More examples can be found on our Dutch web page.

Opening Academic Year