Dr. Jiska Engelbert (ESSBS/ESHCC), the academic project leader for the programme, is closely cooperating with Marie van der Gaag (Academic Affairs) and Merel Scheltema (Academic Affairs student assistant) to realise this Honours Programme. Their intention is to offer a little extra to master students. “We’ve had the idea of offering an Honours Programme to master students for a while, but it’s hard to organise such a programme since many master degrees take only a year to complete,” says Scheltema.

‘It’s interdisciplinary and internationally oriented. In addition, it has a clear overarching theme.’

dr. Jiska Engelbert, about Honours Programme 'Tackling Inequalities'

Two years ago, Engelbert, who was serving as the IBCoM Honours Programme coordinator at the time, started thinking about the design of such a programme. “It has to be interdisciplinary and internationally oriented. In addition, it must have a clear overarching theme.”

This year, that overarching theme is inequality. “We chose this theme because it can be approached from various fields of study taught at our university, meaning it can be approached from various perspectives. For instance, economists will have a different perspective on it than psychologists,” Van der Gaag explains. “We hope students will pool their knowledge so as to address the chosen issue and arrive at a solution together.”

Erasmus Initiatives

“While we were developing our idea, the Erasmus Initiatives were further developed,” says Engelbert. “Since the Erasmus Initiatives research programmes represent the questions this university would like to answer, we think it would be a wonderful idea to link our overarching theme to them.”

In other words, the overarching theme will be discussed from the points of view of the three research programmes that make up the Erasmus Initiatives, i.e. Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity (working towards increasing prosperity in a sustainable manner), Smarter Choices for Better Health (improving health care by making smarter choices), and Vital Cities and Citizens (contributing to the quality of life in cities).

In Engelbert’s words: “Tackling Inequalities will give students access to what is being done as part of the Initiatives, and in their turn, the people behind the Initiatives are encouraged to provide students with the tools they need and to see how their initiatives relate to the inequality issue.”

Societal relevance

Students are given the opportunity to study inequality in many different fields covered by the three initiatives. “But the research must be relevant to the city of Rotterdam,” Engelbert emphasises. Under the supervision of prominent scientists affiliated with the various Initiatives, the students will draw up a research plan to address particular inequality issues that can be found in Rotterdam. Alternatively, they are granted the opportunity to do two or three weeks’ research abroad. “For instance in a city where inequality has been tackled successfully or in a place where relevant knowledge on how to tackle inequality is being generated,” Engelbert goes on to say.

“At the end of the day, the programme is mostly about social engagement,” says Van der Gaag. “We want our students to gain some experience in solving genuine societal challenges. They’re currently in academia, but whereabouts in society will they end up later?”

‘The programme is mostly about social engagement.’

Marie van der Gaag, about Honours Programme 'Tackling Inequalities'

The programme

The Erasmus Honours Programme will take a total of six months to complete, between February and August 2019. The programme will have two parts. Part I will consist of master classes with compulsory attendance for all programme participants. In Part II, the participants will form three groups to conduct research projects themselves. They will be required to record their findings in a multimedia production, e.g. an MOOC (online lecture), podcast or documentary film.

Eighteen spots are available in the programme for students who are studying for an English-language or Dutch-language master degree at EUR during the 2018-2019 academic year. Participants will be awarded 15 credits, and students who successfully complete the programme will receive a certificate signed by the Rector Magnificus.