Descartes College programme

Descartes College offers special interdisciplinary honours courses to talented and motivated Bachelor's students at Utrecht University. Descartes College unites students of all university degree programmes with the best scientists. The goal is a unique, interdisciplinary honours community of academics from all fields: to think together on issues that concern all scientists and all scientific fields.

Who is this for?

Descartes College is the university-wide sanctuary for students who seek to broaden their horizons and wish to transcend the limits of their fields. Descartes will teach you to think on a broad spectrum about science and about the part you play as a scientist. You can better place your own discipline, as well as gain experience on how to exchange ideas and how to discuss matters with students and lecturers from other fields. Ambitious Bachelor's students can apply for Descartes College in their first year. If you enrol in the honours programme of your own degree programme or faculty, you can also enrol in one or more courses at Descartes College as a widening part within this programme.

The courses

Descartes College consists of four courses:

  • Science Panorama. What is science? What are the differences and similarities between, for an example, biology and art history? What makes science special?
  • Science in the Context of Society. How well-founded is the authority of science? Is an ethical or moral code for science possible and effective? What kind of tension is there between the freedom 'science' claims for itself and the need for control required by 'society'?
  • Humanity: from robotics to genetics. How does ethology look at the possible differences between humans and animals? What can we learn from demography about the way in which humans populate this planet? Are science and art (and sports?) indeed the domains at which humans excel?
  • The Challenges of the twenty-first century. What are the challenges modern humans face? How can we deploy science to face these challenges head-on? (The precise course theme will be determined and drawn up by the students themselves.)


In these subjects, you will work with an interdisciplinary group of fellow students under the supervision of a programme leader; the meetings will feature prominent guest speakers and excellent lecturers from both science and society. A lot of attention is spent on developing a discipline-transcending conversation culture, on interaction and on honing writing skills. There will also be field trips to, for instance, universities, museums or concerts domestically and abroad. All Descartes activities offer opportunities for informal contacts with fellow students and lecturers: this enables you to become part of a group of academics who think it is important and entertaining to think about all aspects of science.

More information

If you would like to know more about Descartes College, please visit our website:

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