Global Engagement

Global Engagement is one of the three pillars of the internationalisation programme (the other two are Mobility & Warm Welcome and Profile & Partnerships). Utrecht University engages with the global community, and particularly the “Global South” because:

1. Global engagement beyond Western Europe supports Utrecht University’s strategic goals to excel in research and education as an international institution of higher education and science. Global Engagement:

  • Increases the global relevance of the knowledge we gain, produce, and teach, and global engagement also promotes its utilization. The countries that constitute the Global South are home to the vast majority of the world’s population. Many challenges are global challenges, or have a global nature (e.g. climate, but also think about drug shortages, maintaining open societies, ensuring children everywhere can develop to reach their full potential, etc.).  Addressing and solving these requires a global approach based on cross-country collaboration and insights from different parts of the world. The countries that constitute the Global South are also home to the majority of the world’s population. 
  • Strengthens our research networks and associated strategic position.   
  • Can help UU researchers contribute to questions that only or more efficiently are answered through research with Global South populations. Examples: research on optimal therapeutic management for diseases that occur more often there (Zika, Malaria, sickle cell disease). But also: questions related to climate resilience, biodiversity, etc. 
  • Can strengthen our access to a global talent pool – students and researchers - which adds diversity in thinking, experiences and approaches of numerous outstanding, innovative scholars. Essential, because the best research is conducted in diverse teams!
  • Can strengthen the quality of our curricula, including accessing insights and perspectives from across the globe, and decolonizing curricula where necessary. 
  • Can improve cross cultural competencies of UU students and staff, and can expose them to new experiences and diverse insights that shape their scientific and personal outlook in transformative ways. 

2. Global engagement beyond Western Europe can contribute to equal opportunities for partner institutions in lower resource environments.  
Students and staff in higher education institutions in low- and middle income countries often face many challenges that limit their education- and research opportunities. Compounded by the history of colonization, discrimination, economic exclusion, the huge disparities in CO2 emissions since the beginning for the Industrial Revolution, etc., striving for equity is both a moral obligation as well as an obligation under international law.

The renewed focus on Global Engagement is intended to strengthen and expand  Utrecht University’s cooperation with partners in the Global South. In order to excel in research and education it is necessary to look beyond the European framework of networks and universities. ‘Collaboration across borders’ is one of the five leading principles in the new strategic plan of the Executive Board.


To realize these ambitions the Executive Board has allocated resources and has installed a committee that advises on the strategy and implementation. The committee consists of academics and students from various faculties who have experience with working in and with partners in the Global South.



After having formulated the mission, the committee has identified the following priorities, aimed to achieve this objective:

Short-term goals:

  1. Funds: explore how UU can improve our access to funding opportunities (with a focus on students and academics from low- and middle-income countries)
  2. Communities: connect and create communities around Global Engagement (with the possibility of sub-communities, for example around regions or themes)
  3. Publicity & dissemination: making it known to the UU community (and beyond) that Global Engagement is a strategic priority, what it means and what we are working on

Long-term goal:

  1. Strategy: to advise on the Global Engagement strategy based on a process of consultation and deliberation. This includes setting up open consultations, consultation of policy staff on internationalisation, consultation of (former) Prince Claus Chair holders, consultation of the Executive Board and consultation of students.

These have been divided into portfolios among the committee members and many UU employees are currently working on these priorities.


One way to develop lasting and meaningful cooperation is to establish formal treaties with a select number of partner universities in the Global South. In addition to our longstanding relationship with the University of the Western Cape in South Africa the university has added the Anton de Kom University in Suriname as strategic partner.