16 October 2017

Opening of the Academic Honours Year

Honours education strengthens collaboration between disciplines


On Monday 9 October, the opening of the Academic Honours Year 2017-2018 took place. For this ceremony in Utrecht University Hall (Dutch name: Academiegebouw), honours students and honours lecturers met to festively start the new academic year for honours education. The formation of an honours community is one of the most important spearheads for the upcoming year. Dean of the Honours College, Professor Dr Michael Burke: “Our most important goal is to promote students and lecturers from different disciplines inspiring each other. This way, we educate our students into conscious and critical academics.”

Honours programmes are an important pillar of education within Utrecht University. The university offers broadening, interdisciplinary and deepening faculty-based honours education in both the Bachelor's and Master's phases. The students develop themselves into involved and critical academics who are capable of approaching complex matters from multiple perspectives and working towards manageable solutions. The interdisciplinary honours education turns out to be very popular among students. Professor Dr Michael Burke, the Honours Dean, confirms that for this year, twice as many students as there are vacancies have signed up.

Building an Honours Community

During the opening of the Academic Honours Year, the Honours Dean spoke about the importance of an honours community to the university. Burke's ambition is to give this community a more prominent face within the university: “Honours is no longer something you do in secret, we show ourselves and we are proud of it.” For this reason, the Honours College has founded a new award for the student or employee who has made the biggest contribution to the honours community during the current academic year. On top of that, besides the annual opening, other events will be organised in order to connect all students and lecturers in honours education.

More than the sum of its parts

Honours Director Veterinary Medicine Professor Dr Marjanne Everts also spoke of the importance of the honours community in which lecturers and students inspire each other to come to better and more beautiful results. In regards to this, Everts mentioned the emergent properties of an honours community: the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Through interdisciplinarity, students and lecturers can develop initiatives that are not possible by only looking at an issue from a single discipline.

Characteristics of an honours student

Richelle Boone, an honours alumnus and Master's student, gave a clear view of the honours student in her speech. The characteristic of this student is not just the quality to get high grades, but more to possess the quality to look at issues from a broader perspective and collaborate with various disciplines. This is what makes the honours student different and ensures that the honours education makes a substantial contribution to the goals Utrecht University has set for itself: broad and interdisciplinary education. With the great number of applications for the various education programmes within the Honours College in the past year, we are closer to this goal than ever.

Prof Dr Michael Burke, Honours Dean.