In the medieval Laurenskerk the Academic Year 2013-2014 was officially opened yesterday by a ceremony full of speeches and prizes. 

The first part of the festivities was the traditional ‘singing battle’ between the new members of several fraternities, which resulted in both frowns and smiles among passing citizens of Rotterdam. Accompanied by these hymns, a cortege of VIPs and EUR professors entered the Laurenskerk. The most eye-catching VIPs were Ahmed Aboutaleb, the mayor of Rotterdam, and the Dutch minister of Education, Culture and Science, Jet Bussemaker.

100 years of impact

Pauline van der Meer Mohr, president of the Executive Board of the EUR, welcomed the guests and mentioned the EUR centenary slogan ‘100 years impact’ by highlighting the positive effects that the EUR had on science and society over the past century. Before inviting minister Jet Bussemaker on to the stage, the EUR president concluded on a note of mild criticism pointed towards the Dutch government in The Hague. “… in our view, too much taxpayers’ money is being wasted today on an elaborate control framework that leads to little more than stifling bureaucracy.”

International classroom

Bussemaker, who didn’t respond to this remark, filled her speech with congratulating Rotterdam and stressing some broad trends in higher education. The minister praised the EUR’s international character, by stating that Erasmus himself, who once said ‘The world is my country’, would have been proud to witness the international classroom that the EUR is today.  She took some time to talk about MOOC’s (Massive Open Online Courses), that enable interested people from all over the world to follow lectures on their computers.

This combination of technology and globalization is a great addition to education around the world, but it also raises questions. How can professors and real-life courses keep making a difference? According to Bussemaker, their value lies in creating the lively discussions that can only truly flourish in the classroom. Digital courses are not able to replace them, she said.


The minister left the stage with a gift, she received the first edition of the book ‘Ambitie en Identiteit (Ambition and Identity), van Nederlandsche Handels-Hoogeschool naar Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, 1913-2013’, presented and co-authored by Paul van de Laar, a Rotterdam-specialized historian.

There were more prizes to come. Rector Magnificus Henk Schmidt proudly awarded the University Awards 2013, meant for EUR students and staff with an outstanding contribution to science.

After all these formalities, the Academic Year 2013-2014 was finally opened. Schmidt expressed his confidence in a bright future for the new generation of students. “Go for it!”, was his call addressed to all students at the kick-off of this special year. MvS