HomeAchieving and solving together

Achieving and solving together

VU Amsterdam had long been interested in establishing a science partnership. Initially, the idea was to do this together with the University of Amsterdam. In 2017, however, this fell through at the last moment. A disappointment, but new plans for a collaboration soon emerged, this time with the UT. Within an very short period of eighteen months, plans led to the start of Mechanical Engineering  in Amsterdam. The first technical study at VU Amsterdam and the first joint bachelor's programme with the UT. On behalf of Amsterdam, the dean of the Faculty of Science Guus Schreiber, has been involved from the start. ‘Mechanical Engineering in Twente was rock solid. We didn't have to start from scratch'. 

‘There were various reasons for starting a technical study at VU Amsterdam. In 2017, several tech companies had made an urgent appeal in the Dutch national newspaper NRC. Because of the great need for highly educated technical staff, they made an ardent plea to also start a technical study at university level  in Amsterdam, one of the growth regions. The same need was expressed in a survey we conducted among secondary school students in the Amsterdam and North Holland regions. And there was also our own wish. Because with a technical study, our spectrum of study programmes would be complete. 

Not starting from scratch 

During a visit to the UT in 2017 by our then rector Vinod Subramaniam, who was previously a professor at the UT, the article by the tech companies also came up and it was quickly decided to do something together. And that became Mechanical Engineering in Amsterdam. A very pragmatic choice due to the needs of the market and the pre-university students in Amsterdam and North Holland and due to the fact that the study already existed in Twente. That meant we didn't have to start from scratch. After eighteen months, Mechanical Engineering started with 60 students in Amsterdam. That is the shortest preparation period I have ever experienced for such a programme. 

Eager to work together

The speed with which we realised Mechanical Engineering in Amsterdam was certainly also due to the good personal and managerial relationships between everyone involved at both universities. People enjoyed it and were eager to work together. There was a feeling that we were going to achieve and solve something together. And we did that without too much stress. If there was a problem, it was quickly dealt with and solved. There was very little fuss and that is very pleasant. 

Pragmatic solutions

The lack of hassle was not entirely self-evident. For example, it could have happened because of the physical and psychological distance between the two universities, or because of the fact that the students had to spend the night in Enschede once every fortnight. But the greatest potential stumbling block was the educational model. That was quite different at both universities, both in terms of content and scheduling. We solved that pragmatically as well. We didn't change anything in terms of content. Why should we? Mechanical Engineering in Twente was rock solid. We also went along with Twente in terms of scheduling. This makes us the only study programme at VU Amsterdam with a different schedule but as long as it works, there is not much to worry about. 

Substitute pride 

On 1 July at the graduation of the first batch of students, I was really happy and satisfied.  And also proud? I don't really like that word. And if I were proud, it is kind of substitute pride. Because my role in all this is limited. It was mainly starting up at the beginning and sometimes trouble-shooting along the way. Others did the real work. So the credits are for them. As for the future, we are working now on creating our own place for the Mechanical Engineering staff within VU Amsterdam. Also in a physical way. In addition, we are going to work on the research component of Mechanical Engineering. Because education and research really belong together.  

Together we are the broadest university in the Netherlands

I am very pleased that Creative Technology will be starting at VU Amsterdam next year. It will be our second joint bachelor's programme and it has already proved itself in Twente. I have said from the start that a solitary technical study programme at VU Amsterdam is not viable. To develop a technical profile, we need at least two and preferably three study programmes. Behind the scenes, we are working on that. The great thing about the collaboration is that VU Amsterdam can offer a technical study without having the profile of a fully-fledged technical university. We can make use of the knowledge and infrastructure available at the UT. Together we are the broadest university in the Netherlands.’