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A Broader Mind

VU Amsterdam encourages students, academics and professionals to be open-minded. To be people with A Broader Mind who expand their perspective academically, develop themselves personally and engage socially. This helps us bridge conflicts, find sustainable solutions and work toward a better world.

At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, you don’t just become something, you become someone. Someone with academic expertise and a focus on society.

A broad education since our foundation
Since the days of our founder Abraham Kuyper, VU Amsterdam has stood for values-driven education and research. Kuyper was an advocate of facilitating the broad intellectual and personal development of students. Students should be encouraged to be active in scholarship and society in a way that is connected to their ideology and worldview. His ideas still inspire us, although we apply them in a modern context.

Still today, we see differences of opinion and personal convictions as important driving forces behind academic pursuit and social engagement. We see VU Amsterdam as a values-driven community with impact that extends beyond our university. These values shape our education, research, knowledge transfer, operational management and also the world around us.

We therefore intentionally ask questions about the purpose, role and responsibility that we have as a university. We encourage students, academics and professionals inside and outside VU Amsterdam to do the same and to look at society, their professional field and their personal role in it with a Broader Mind.

Adding colour to identity and core tasks
With A Broader Mind, we give concrete expression to our unique identity and add colour to our academic education, research and knowledge transfer. Colour that matches the distinctive characteristics of VU Amsterdam, such as our diverse student population, our societal orientation and our excellent interdisciplinary research. Characteristics that encourage students, academics and professionals to think more broadly. The foundation of A Broader Mind lies in the triad of personal development, academic expansion and societal orientation.

Developing A Broader Mind
In addition to the broadening of academic expertise and professional skills, values also play an important role in developing A Broader Mind. There are three different types of values involved in this: 1. one's personal values, 2. the fundamental values of your field, such as justice, care for others, the search for truth, 3. the social values that are always under debate. We seek to deepen, broaden and connect these often-conflicting values.

Students, academics and professionals with A Broader Mind are aware of their own personality, values, motives and mindset, and at the same time are open to those of others. They combine in-depth professional knowledge with a broad, multidisciplinary perspective and skills. They look at things critically, from different perspectives and across borders. They are committed professionals who appreciate and utilise each other's differences, and use their knowledge and skills to work toward a better world—today, tomorrow and for future generations.

Studying with A Broader Mind

Part of A Broader Mind is the Broader Mind Course. Programme director Govert Buijs explains how VU bachelor’s and master’s students are working with VU staff to shape the future of our education

A Broader Mind

  • The Broader Mind Course

    In the Broader Mind Course, students work on their personal development, societal orientation and academic depth.

    When you study at VU Amsterdam, you will develop A Broader Mind. Whatever programme you choose, you will be challenged to look beyond the boundaries of your studies, to look at society and at yourself.

  • Community Service Learning

    Students can also participate in a Community Service Learning (CSL) course. CSL is a form of education that connects students with actors in society, such as citizens' initiatives, non-profits, local organisations, or policy makers. Together, you will address (part of) a real-world challenge. This way, you will make impact, while developing essential skills for your future career. 

    Most Bachelor's and Master's programmes at VU Amsterdam offer CSL courses. Either as an elective, as part of your study programme, or extracurricular.

    Read more about Community Service Learning

  • Mixed Classroom

    The VU Mixed Classroom Educational Model is an educational approach that builds upon differences to enrich the learning experience for all students present. Capitalizing on differences does not mean compromising between different perspectives or merging them into one uniform perspective. Instead, we use the differences and possible tension between perspectives to stimulate critical thinking, develop analytical skills, and generate creative solutions.

  • Longitudinal research

    To measure the long-term effects of A Broader Mind for Students on our students and alumni, a longitudinal study will be initiated. For this purpose, a cohort study will be conducted over 12 years. Prior to the cohort study, experiments will be done among students participating in the course so that the short-term effect of the course and its various elements on student skills and outcomes can be measured.

    The leader of the longitudinal study is Professor René Bekkers, Professor of Sociology and Philanthropy at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

  • The attainment levels of personal development

    At VU Amsterdam you don’t just become something, you become someone. A Broader Mind for Students is the title we have given to this aim. But what does that actually mean and how do we ensure that students make this broad perspective their own?  

    The university’s vision for education states that this is about broadening academic horizons, societal orientation and personal development. All students at VU Amsterdam encounter these elements and learn from them. Of course they receive a thorough education in their own discipline, but they also learn to think beyond these boundaries and are confronted with other opinions, entering into a dialogue with people from different backgrounds, programmes, work cultures and lifestyles than their own.  

    Working on A Broader Mind can be done in many different ways and at different stages of a degree programme. It has been agreed that eventually all students who obtain a Bachelor’s degree at VU Amsterdam must have achieved four attainment levels:  

    1. Research perspectives: graduates can defend a well-argued position on societal and academic issues that transcend various disciplines and perspectives.  
    2. Reflection on responsibilities: graduates demonstrate an open mind, based on understanding and appreciation of societal and cultural diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity.  
    3. Collaboration: graduates can work together effectively in groups on academic subjects.  
    4. Reflection on development (academic, personal and societal): graduates can reflect on their development as students, academics and citizens.  

    These final attainment levels encompass what we at VU Amsterdam understand as A Broader Mind. This covers what students should be able to do, what they should know and what attitude they should have when they receive their Bachelor’s degree. These final attainment levels will be included in the Teaching and Examination Regulations (OER) for all Bachelor’s programmes by the end of 2025. They can be expressed in a different wording but all of the substantive aspects must be covered.  

    In education, various teaching methods and substantive elements can be used to work towards the ABM's final attainment levels. These include the Broader Mind Course that is open to all Bachelor’s students, use of Mixed Classroom methodology, Community Service Learning, education on sustainability and entrepreneurship.