A partnership with impact: Anton de Kom University of Suriname

 Utrecht University (UU) aspires to be an international university. One of the ways to achieve this is cooperation with international partner universities, including in the Global South. An example of such a cooperation is the strategic partnership UU has had since 2021 with the Anton de Kom University of Suriname (AdeKUS)

Strategic partnership

The logo of AdeKUS is visible against a white background

AdeKUS is a strategic partner of the UU, but what does that mean? At Utrecht University, we see strategic partnerships as a form of collaboration that leads to innovation, development and contribution to solving societal issues. Especially when we speak of urgent issues taking place on a global scale, it is essential that we look beyond the boundaries of a single organization, university or country. We thus enrich our perspectives and exchange knowledge.

Global Engagement not only ensures that we as UU extend our boundaries in research and education in an international context, but we can also contribute to equal opportunities for partner institutions in areas with fewer resources. Building on historical and friendly ties, UU and AdeKUS also established a strategic partnership to this end in 2021.

It is beautiful to see how the cooperation between the Anton de Kom University of Suriname and Utrecht University/UMC leads to valuable projects and exchanges in a multitude of areas.

In previous years, cooperation between the two universities had already been strengthened. Among other things, this translated into flourishing collaborations with societal impact in research areas such as Geosciences and Medicine, including for parent and child health care. The goal is to consolidate and expand this to more disciplines during the period 2021-2026.

AdeKUS, named after the Surinamese anti-colonial writer and freedom fighter Anton de Kom, is a Surinamese university in Paramaribo. Consisting of seven faculties, the university has nearly 4,000 students and over 400 employees. Three pillars have been established within the partnership to work on:

  1. Joint research projects;
  2. Mobility and exchange of personnel;
  3. Support and supervision of AdeKUS doctoral students.

Obtaining a doctoral degree: a topic of conversation

Since 2021, various efforts have been made to intensify cooperation. The symposium on the cooperation discussed the current state of affairs, both in education and research, and visions for the future. To continue working on the cooperation, a committee has been formed with input from both universities. There are also annual working visits to and from Suriname.

Policy for obtaining a doctoral degree is one of the focus points in the cooperation, in order to increase the research experience of the academic staff of AdeKUS. With the implementation of a survey, it was found that there was a lot of enthusiasm among AdeKUS teachers to do a PhD. After this, the committee started linking PhD candidates to Utrecht professors, which has already led to a number of new PhD trajectories. 

Educational leadership

Vice-rector of Education, Manon Kluijtmans, was on a working visit to the University of Suriname from December to February to discuss issues surrounding education. She received a warm welcome and met with various staff and students. Among other things, she organized a master class on "Educational Leadership" at the invitation of the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture in Suriname, with the aim of exchanging thoughts on leadership in future (university) education.

Video about the masterclass Educational Leadership (Ministry of ER&C) [Dutch]

It is also about what is coming at us in a rapidly changing society: what does that mean for education? How do we deal with new technological possibilities, with new generations, with epidemics? A lot is constantly changing in our society, and we are looking at the impact on education.

One Book One Campus

Margreet staat in het midden en reikt het boek over het de universiteit en het slavernijverleden uit aan de bestuursvoorzitter en de bestuurssecretaris.
Presentation of the book 'University of Utrecht and colonial knowledge' to the university board.

At the conclusion of the visit, a conversation took place between Margreet de Lange, policy advisor Global Engagement, Manon Kluijtmans, colleagues from the cooperation committee between UU and AdeKUS and the AdeKUS board. On this occasion, de Lange handed over the book on the colonial history of the UU, "Utrecht University and Colonial Knowledge," written by Henk van Rinsum. The book will be made available in the university's library. Colonial history and its effects in today's society is one of the themes within the collaboration.

The cooperation is not only taking place in Suriname. There is also a lot happening in Utrecht, for example the One Book One Campus campaign in March. An important book is taking center stage this year: "We Slaves of Suriname" by Anton de Kom. In the book, de Kom addresses the question of what kind of country Suriname actually is, and how it came to be. Although the book dates from 1934 and offers a historiography of Suriname, it still makes readers think about all kinds of current issues. By reading this book as a university community, we raise awareness on the topic of colonialism and the role of the Netherlands in it.

Buy your book for only €7,50!

Within the One Book One Campus campaign, joint activities are organized with AdeKUS. On February 29, for example, an online workshop from the Centre for Academic Teaching & Learning took place: 'Towards an inclusive curriculum'. In this session, AdeKUS staff member and PhD candidate Marina de Bies shared her experiences with inclusive education and decolonizing knowledge in education. As a teacher, how do you take care of integrating local knowledge production into education to create a more inclusive curriculum? There will also be online Meet & Read sessions, where passages from the book will be read together with both universities. On the occasion of the project, arrangements have also been made within the partnership: the UU will give 250 copies of the book to AdeKUS. These will be distributed to students and staff at AdeKUS.