Executive Board column: Spui building is magnet for interdisciplinary collaboration

This month the University and several partners signed the rental contract for the brand-new Spui building. What will this location mean for the future of Campus The Hague, Leiden University and the population of The Hague? Martijn Ridderbos explains in his column.

In this column Annetje Ottow, Hester Bijl and Martijn Ridderbos give a peek behind the scenes at the Executive Board of Leiden University. What does their work involve? What makes them enthusiastic? What challenges do they face? Building a healthy and engaged learning community begins with sharing what you are up to. This time it’s Martijn Ridderbos’s turn.

At present, we have around 7,000 students and 21 programmes in The Hague. We want to expand this to around 10,000 students and to develop several new bachelor’s and master’s programmes for Campus The Hague on themes that fit The Hague and where we can see gaps in our offering. That calls for extra space. We are choosing to fill this space in a way that ties in with our vision for the future, with an emphasis on interdisciplinary research and teaching.

The Spui building

The Spui building is a fantastic new location because it will not only help us achieve the University’s growth ambitions but also provide space for various partners. It is a beautiful building and a place that will facilitate cross-pollination between different disciplines. This could be between researchers and students from different faculties and universities but also with directors and professionals from, for example, the municipality, ministries and health care organisations.

While we were signing the contract, I could already feel the buzz of energy from all the partners. The Spui building will work as a magnet for all sorts of fruitful collaborations. We want to see how we can learn from and enhance one another. The Open University will use this location, for example, and when it comes to ‘lifelong learning’ we stand to learn a lot from them. Universities of the Netherlands will also have a presence in the building. And we are talking to Delft University of Technology, the LUMC and the University of Edinburgh about the possibility of space there too.

Open connection with the city

With our real estate development, we are increasingly opting for an open connection with the city. The Spui building should be welcoming and accessible, not just for students. In The Hague we are building a campus that does not necessarily house one faculty or institute but is for the whole university and city. The new developments will strengthen our long-term relationship with the city and municipality – something we are very pleased with.

You can clearly see the connection with the residents of The Hague in the ‘Children of the City’ project. Here our students and researchers are helping children with a language delay by offering them rich language and thus increasing their vocabulary and educational opportunities. Our Health Campus will also help the city’s residents with their health and vitality. The big questions that The Hague faces, such as housing, migration and affordable health care, can only be solved by linking disciplines and ensuring they work together. And the Spui building is the ideal place for that.

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