Dies Natalis 2024: The future of democracy

Today we celebrated the 388th Dies Natalis of Utrecht University.

Livestream recording

Livestream timestamps

  • 13:00 - Opening
  • 32:40 - Keynote
  • 50:30 - Honorary Doctorates
  • 1:07:00 - Music
  • 1:17:50 - Teacher awards

The future of democracy

The theme of the Dies Natalis is ‘The future of democracy’.

The continued existence of the democratic constitutional state depends on a number of written AND unwritten rules. All over the world, these rules are under pressure. Authoritarian leaders are using the formal institutions of democracy to weaken the constitutional state from the inside, one step at a time. The more informal, unwritten rules of democracy – respect for minorities, space for pluriformity, no interference with judges, accepting a loss – are being transgressed upon first. Universities are important institutions for maintaining these unwritten rules and practices.

The Anniversary Address entitled ‘The unwritten rules of the democratic constitutional state’ was held by Mark Bovens, professor of Public Administration at the Utrecht University School of Governance.

Two international top-level academics received honorary doctorates during the Dies Natalis: Matthew Flinders and Robyn Eckersley. Matthew Flinders has been nominated by the strategic theme Institutions for Open Societies. Throughout his impressive career, he has carried out influential work on a number of core aspects of an open society, such as the meaning and design of politics, democracy and good governance. Robyn Eckersley has been nominated by the strategic theme Pathways to Sustainability. Her research mainly looks at which political and institutional innovations are needed to fight the consequences of climate change and how to ensure that these innovations are democratically secured. In this context, Robin Eckersley uses a broad definition of democracy and who can participate in it.

After the presentation of the honorary doctorates, we celebrated the winners of the Teacher Awards and presented the Alumnus of the Year Award. The Utrechtse Studenten Bigband provided a musical intermezzo.

More information
To our experts on democracy