Community Engaged Learning

Community Engaged Learning (CEL) at Utrecht University is education in which students, teachers and external partners work together on shared social issues. We build equal relationships in which we work together sustainably. This creates new insights for complex problems and trains students to become socially engaged citizens and professionals. UU strives to ensure that student social engagement is embedded in all programmes.

On this page

On this page, you can read more about what CEL is, what characterises CEL at Utrecht University and UU's ambition with this form of education.

Staff member or teacher?

If you are an staff member or teacher at Utrecht University, please check the intranet for more information, tools and support for developing CEL education.

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Community Engaged Learning at Utrecht University

Ambition: CEL is part of the curriculum

UU aims to embed student civic engagement in every degree programme. CEL is encouraged and supported as a form of education to fulfil this objective. The CEL programme has been established to facilitate the development of CEL education, including through grants and training for lecturers. On the UU intranet, lecturers can find all information about the support available. 

In all faculties

At UU, we believe that CEL can be developed and applied in many different ways, making it employable in the more exact sciences as well. With our approach, we encourage the development and embedding of CEL courses in all faculties: from Humanities to Beta Sciences and everything in between. Each faculty has a specific CEL ambassador to drive this development.

Minimal components

What is CEL exactly? And what does it mean to ‘do’ it? Community Engaged Learning activities  are not often fully constructed in one go, and may take some time to develop. At Utrecht University, there is a threshold (minimal) definition which participants are encouraged to deepen over time.

Minimal components for any activity to be considered CEL include:

  • At least one external partner outside the bounds of higher education
  • Direct interactions between that partner or partners and both students and instructors
  • A focus on societal issues of shared concern, including attention to the systemic aspects of those issues
  • Reflection on the part of students.  This reflection links personal experience with those of the other participants. In CEL this process of discovery is at least as important as any product delivered.

To strive for reciprocal and long-term relationships

Striving for reciprocal collaborations and an equal relationship, in which the contributions (knowledge, experiences, etc.) of all involved are seen as equally valuable, is a key feature of CEL. In addition, UU aims to build long-term relationships with its external partners, so that mutual trust can grow and cooperation can be further deepened over time. 

Diverse partners 

CEL may involve various 'communities' outside the university, depending on the specific public good being pursued:

  • Less fortunate or disadvantaged groups, with possible advocacy for them as well
  • Communities centred around a specific place (neighbourhoods, streets, etc.)
  • Professional organisations (such as NGOs, government agencies) seeking insights to better understand their own social mission  
  • (Commercial) research institutes where joint (ethical) reflection and the pursuit of a public good are the main goals

Research on CEL

Within the UU, research is increasingly being conducted into various aspects of CEL. Questions central to this are, for example, "How does CEL contribute to the university's mission?", "What is the added value of CEL for all stakeholders?" and "How do you establish sustainable relationships with external partners?".

Students approach the issue in a different way, giving you the best of both worlds.

Sarah Vredeveld
Project Manager Municipality of Nieuwegein

Contact and collaboration

Programme team

James Kennedy (chair, dean), Kim Zunderdorp (programme manager) and Roos van Lin (programme secretary) make up the CEL programme team. For general questions about CEL at Utrecht University, please contact Roos van Lin.


Collaborating with UU

As a company or social organisation, it is possible to submit an enquiry to teachers and students at Utrecht University. To do so, contact U-Collaborate in Education.