Engels is withdrawing from EUR’s Executive Board for personal reasons, according to a press statement released today by the university. In response to the Covid crisis, he started thinking about he could best contribute and put his capacities to good use: “I concluded for myself that we desperately need to improve existing policy and interventions in the field of mental health – and specifically that of adolescents and young adults. I feel a strong obligation to take my responsibility in this context.” Engels will continue to be associated with Erasmus University Rotterdam in his capacity of Professor of Psychopathology.


Engels had adopted student welfare, diversity and societal impact as three of the spearheads for his rectorship. During his term (he was appointed in June 2018), the university developed a plan to improve student welfare, introduced a new policy measure to support talented women researchers in moving up to a professorship and assigned a key role to societal impact in its new strategy.


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Since March of this year, Engels’s activities as rector magnificus were dominated by the Covid crisis: “These past few years it has been an incredibly enjoyable and energising experience to work as rector magnificus on behalf of this wonderful university. I am hugely proud of how we jointly handled the Covid pandemic, despite the workload and uncertainty about the future it brought in its wake.”


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In the EUR press release, the Chairman of EUR’s Supervisory Board Jaap Winter shares his gratitude for everything Engels has done for the university: “He was the driving force behind the development and implementation of our new strategy, the fostering of convergence with Erasmus Medical Centre and Delft University of Technology and the realisation of the culture campus. We were therefore sad to hear Rutger will be stepping down.”

The Supervisory Board has appointed Frank van der Duijn Schouten as interim rector magnificus. His maximum term has been set at nine months, and he will be working three days a week in this role.

Interim rector

Van der Duijn Schouten is currently interim statutory director of EUR Holding. Over the past few years, he also served as an interim dean at Erasmus School of Philosophy, Erasmus School of Economics and Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication. Van der Duijn Schouten’s previous appointments include rector magnificus of Tilburg University (1998 to 2005) and VU University Amsterdam (2013 to 2015).

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Van der Duijn Schouten speaking about his new appointment: “Although under normal circumstances, a stable organisation like Erasmus University Rotterdam can definitely get through a few months with a two-headed Executive Board at the helm, I understand the Supervisory Board’s reasons for choosing an interim rectorship – partly in view of the recent appointment of the other two Board members. As a former dean, you don’t say ‘no’ in a situation like this when the university calls on you.”

The Board of Deans of Erasmus University ‘regrets the unexpected resignation’ of Engels, the deans write in a joint statement. They ‘respect’ his choice and ‘the considerations that played a role’ and are ‘happy that he remains part of our community’. They call him the ‘figurehead’ of the new strategic direction and ‘one of the driving forces’ behind the more intensive cooperation with Erasmus MC and TU Delft.
“The way we as Erasmus University have embarked upon is a path that we have developed together and that we will continue to pursue together”, says the statement of the deans. “In this way we will continue to build the future of a university that is at the heart of society and that does justice to the values that we as Erasmus University consider important.”