History of UCU

Hans Adriaansens
Hans Adriaansens, founder of UCU

University College Utrecht was founded in 1997 by Hans Adriaansens, at that time Dean of the Utrecht University Faculty of Social Sciences. Adriaansens had a vision of a small scale international college, modeled after the American and British colleges. In 1998 UCU opened its gate as the international undergraduate honors college of Utrecht University.

It was the first organization in the Netherlands to implement the spirit of liberal arts and sciences, an educational concept that breaks away from the traditional Dutch paradigm, where focus is on disciplinary specialization throughout the entire curriculum. Following the Bologna Accord in 1999 the academic educational systems in Europe started a transformation towards a two-tier system of undergraduate (more general) and graduate (more specialized) education. In this process UCU gained increasing recognition as an example and source of inspiration. 

After a decade of experience UCU now counts as an example of innovative education, and no fewer than five liberal arts colleges have opened their doors in the Netherlands since.

Hans Adriaansens left UCU in 2004 to found, under the UU umbrella, a liberal arts college in Middelburg, Zeeland: University College Roosevelt.

Campus History

University College’s premises are of historical origin. About a century ago, builders were digging an excavation for the big chimney located towards the back of the campus and discovered the remnants of an old well dating back to the eleventh or twelfth century. In those days the grounds belonged to a monastery called Oudwijk. It is hardly surprising that human bones were found: between 1100 and 1600 many battles were fought in Utrecht. During one of these the monastery was set on fire and almost completely burned down.

The area was called Galgenwaard, a reminder of which can be found in the FC Utrecht football stadium which still carries that name. It comes from the Dutch word for gallow: galg. In medieval times convicts were hanged in the city center; to enhance the deterrence effect, the corpses were then relocated for an indeterminate period of time. They ended up in the fields on which the Kromhoutkazerne was built.

UCU Campus History

History of the Kromhoutkazerne

In 1908 the Dutch army acquired land west of fortress Vossegat for a new base for the ‘genie’ (engineers) in Utrecht. Construction started in 1910 and the base was occupied in September 1913. It was about time, because until then the engineers had been stationed at the Damlust barracks which were nothing more than a former locomotive workplace, not equipped for housing armed forces.  

The barracks that were moved into in 1913 are largely the same as the part of the base that is currently used by UCU. Then present, but later demolished, were a kitchen building, canteen, bathhouse and the Driepoot (a workplace). Over the years the terrain would expand to include fortress Vossegat and the Galgenwaard stadium.  

During World War 1 a number of remarkable events took place. On the base new technologies were developed and tested. There was, for example, the development of a hand grenade which was dangerous to fabricate. During an accident in May 1916 lieutenant Bührmann was killed while throwing away a spontaneously igniting grenade, thereby saving the lives of others working in the shop. The mobilization stirred up boredom and discontentment among the soldiers, which in the winter of 1917/1918 led to grumbling and even arson. The southern façade of building C burnt to the ground.

On the eve of World War 2 the engineers left the base and it was used for the encampment of an infantry regiment and some smaller units. After the Dutch capitulation German troops confiscated the base and allocated it to the Hermann Göring air landing division. The base served an educational function for German soldiers who were taught the theoretical aspects of military life, and accommodated layovers for German troops.

After the war the regiment Technical Forces would call the base home. The army acquired many vehicles which had to be serviced, and large numbers of mechanics were needed. During the following years the base underwent many changes. One of these was a new mess. The Kromhoutkazerne was infamous for its mediocre mess where sparrows flew around, the quality of the food was substandard, and meals were served on metal plates. Construction of the current UCU Dining Hall was completed in 1985.

When the Cold War ended a large part of the ground forces became obsolete. During the 90s the oldest part of the Kromhoutkazerne was sold to Utrecht University, and is now known as University College Utrecht. 

Joachim Hendrik Kromhout was born in 1835 and admitted to the Royal Military Academy at the age of 17. In 1856 he was appointed 2nd lieutenant at the Corps Engineers, Miners and Sappers. After a long career, during which he published extensively on a variety of military subjects, Kromhout was promoted to lieutenant-general in 1886. Kromhout died in 1897.

Text: © Frank Oosterboer, jeoudekazernenu.nl