A Broader Mind

Develop A Broader Mind for the future
The societal changes are increasing. Especially in this time it is important to develop your qualities which are broader than your own discipline. This enable you to be better prepared for challenges in the future.
Mirjam van Praag, the President of the Executive Board at the opening of the 2018 academic year:
We don’t want our students to just ‘become something’ – we also want them to ‘become someone’

Mirjam van Praag: Wij willen dat onze studenten niet alleen ‘iets’ worden, maar ook ‘iemand’ worden.

Why the shaping of students on academic, personal and societal level should have a natural place in education. 

The VU will start the educational programme A Broader Mind in which all bachelor students will work on societal issue and where self-development is paramount. With this programme will you learn to approach a societal issue from different scientific disciplines.

How is your world changing?
The societal challenges are increasing, become more complex and demand a more multidisciplinary approach. Theme’s like artificial intelligence, aging, geopolitical tensions, shortage of natural resources, unequal distribution of wealth and climate change have an impact of the world of today and tomorrow.

At the same time the job market is changing, positions are shifting, knowledge is less sustainable. There are more possibilities to get education and the current student will most likely have more careers within different positions and disciplines. In contradiction to these developments, the government encourage students to only focus on their own discipline and graduate as soon as possible. There is hardly any room to broaden or deepen your possibilities, let alone have reflection on their role in society.

De wereld verandert

What does this mean for you?
This requires you as a student to think about who you are, how you look at the world, how you relate to others and what your role is in society.

You will develop personal skills, such as: working together across borders, open and sharp debating, reflecting on your own perspectives, norms and values and dealing with pressure and stress. Finally, at 'Community Service Learning' you will use your knowledge to solve pressing societal issues.

In A Broader Mind you will participate in two parts:

  • Community Service Learning: a form of education in which you will use professional knowledge in practice. This way you contribute to solving societal issues.
  • A Broader Mind Course: work together with students from other bachelor degree programmes and develop socially and personally.

During Community Service Learning (CSL), you will use your academic skills as a student to contribute to solving social issues. This is done in cooperation with a societal partner, for example a municipality. Some students are already working on CSL within their education, but the VU wants to make it possible for all students to participate in CSL activity.

In a lot of cases the activities are part of the obligatory programme of a study programme and study credits are attached to it. What does such a Community Service Learning activity look like? Read a few examples:

  • In the second year of a course Youth Health Care, students gave recommendations on how learning by moving can be used to support learning at a primary school in Amsterdam Nieuw-West
  • The Inside-out Prison Exchange Programme provides educational meetings in penal institutions where students and detainees get lessons together.
  • In the third year course Community-based Health Interventions, students work together with the Salvation Army to improve various programmes in Amsterdam such as: homeless shelters, crisis care centers and community center.
  • Students Logistics are working together with the food bank on the optimization of logistical processes.
  • Students are doing interviews and literature research to gain insight on how the municipality of Almere could deal with the increasing number of elderly people.

If you have questions about Community Service Learning, please contact:Wim Haan

Wim Haan, project manager for Community Service Learning
020 - 598 56 73 

Community Service Learning and the research into CSL will be led by Professor Marjolein Zweekhorst, professor of innovation and education at the science faculty. Marjolein Zweekhorst
m.b.m.zweekhorst@vu.nl020 – 5987033
Marjolein Zweekhorst

Read more about Community Service Learning on the VU.

The A Broader Mind Course is for all VU bachelor students, in which personal and academic development, societal interaction and reflection are central. This means that you, as a student, are introduced to major societal issues, such as sustainability, digitization and poverty. These are issues that cannot be solved with one discipline. That is why you will work together with experts and fellow students from other courses who have different perspectives. You will discover what these interdisciplinary themes mean to you and how you, from your own background and conviction, can contribute your part.

For and by students
Students, teachers, scientists and other enthusiastic staff of the VU create this course together, what makes it so special. In addition, you have an instant role as a student in the design and improvement of education. For example, the themes you are going to work with are co-written by students from VU University Amsterdam.

Online and offline activities
The A Broader Mind Course consists of a mix of online and offline activities. You will follow the online activities in a MOOC, a Massive Open Online Course. In the MOOC you watch videos and read articles in which experts speak, you create quizzes and you can talk to other students via a forum. In addition, you will be encouraged from the MOOC to undertake activities yourself to investigate what a topic does to you. Think of collecting your own plastic waste to build a work of art with other students, within the theme of Sustainability.

Help Build A Broader Mind
Do you want to contribute to education? We are always looking for great ideas and new insights,
please contact: 


Rolinka Schippers, project manager for A Broader Mind Course
020 - 598 27 13

The A Broader Mind course is led by professor at Govert Buijs, professor of political philosophy and holder of the Goldschmeding Chair 'Economics & civil society' at the Faculty of Humanities.
020 - 598 66 83

Govert Buijs

Work with themes
During the A Broader Mind Course eight themes will be discussed. (A Broader Mind and the themes are under development. The themes can still change.) As a student you work together with students from other study programmes and you will learn to approach the themes from different disciplines. You start each theme based on your own personal question and a societal challenge.

1. Health & Happiness
The societal challenge is: Follow your own path to happiness. Your personal question in this theme is: Which factors influence my happiness?

2. Poverty
The societal challenge is: How can we, as society, reduce the negative effects of poverty in someone's living environment? Your personal question in this theme is: How do I experience financial poverty?

3. Success
The societal challenge is: How can organizations become successful through learning of their failures? Your personal question in this theme is: How can I become successful through learning of my failures?  

4. The Digital World
The societal challenge is: How to gain a thorough understanding of the requirements for and applications of digital innovations as they pertain to challenges in healthcare? Your personal question in this theme is: How do I weigh the (ethical) benefits versus risks, regarding digital innovations?

5. Rebellion
The societal challenge is: How far would you go with your own rebellion in respect to societal challenges we get introduced to in this course? Your personal question in this theme is: Wat kind of rebel am I?

6. Identity
The societal challenge is: How do people from so many different backgrounds manage to live together in the super diverse city of Amsterdam? Your personal question in this theme is: What makes me 'me' and what do I want to be seen by others?

7. Sustainabiliy
The societal challenge is: Join the quest and help to solve the waste plastic problem! Your personal question in this theme is: How big is my role in the cause, the consequence and the solution of the plastic problem?

8. The Human Body
The societal challenge is: What is the limit for biotechnical applications for human health? Your personal question in this theme is: Who is the owner of my body?

If you have general questions about A Broader Mind, please contact the programme team:

Kirstin de Boer  Het programmateam
020 - 598 76 05  

Nynke Rodenhuis  
020 - 598 63 12