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Kuyper Year

VU Celebrates 140th birthday

Kuyper Year at VU Amsterdam

It has now been 140 years since Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) founded Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The university will be celebrating this anniversary throughout the 2020/2021 academic year with a host of activities inspired by Kuyper’s extraordinary legacy.

Who was Abraham Kuyper?

Kuyper was a social entrepreneur, a champion of diversity and a fighter for democracy. These three themes will therefore be at the heart of all the activities taking place. Kuyper’s seemingly tireless activism in reshaping society through politics, education, the church, academic endeavour and the press remains a source of inspiration to this day. Not only within VU Amsterdam but also far beyond.

Watch the video: Who was Abraham Kuyper? 

“Politicians need to avoid developing a bookkeeper’s mentality. I agree with the democrat Kuyper when he says: governance and administration are two separate things.”
- Kathleen Ferrier (chairperson National UNESCO committee and member steering committee Kuyper Year)
“If Abraham Kuyper were to walk in here suddenly, I would tell him that he founded a fantastic university and that I am proud to follow in his footsteps 140 years later.”
- Vinod Subramaniam (Rector Magnificus VU Amsterdam)

Watch the compilation video of the Kuyper Year


The VU Amsterdam Kuyper Year preparations are supervised by Kathleen Ferrier (Chairperson of the National UNESCO Committee), Vinod Subramaniam (Rector Magnificus of VU Amsterdam), Don Ceder (lawyer and party leader of ChristenUnie Amsterdam), George Harinck (VU Professor of the History of Neo-Calvinism), Renée van Schoonhoven (VU Professor of Education law), Anne Dijk (Director of Fahm institute), Megan Terpstra (member of the VU University Student Council), Hilde van Wijngaarden (Director of VU University Library), Kees van der Kooi (Director of the Center for Evangelical and Reformation Theology), René van Woudenberg (Director of the Abraham Kuyper Centre) en Ab Flipse (University Historian VU Amsterdam).

Statement Abraham Kuyper
“In the year of Abraham Kuyper, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam commemorates the entrepreneurship, democratic spirit and preference for diversity of its iconic founder. But there are also statements and ideas he has made that we, the organizers of the Kuyper Year, disagree with. For example his negative views on African cultures. These statements show a lack of empathy and are clearly consistent with European colonialism at the time. Those that continue to hold ideological views of apartheid have attempted to explain his sphere of sovereignty ideas as racist views. In the church, Kuyper himself opposed any form of race segregation.

First and foremost we view Abraham Kuyper as the founder of our university, whose actions and ideas still inspire and unite us and focus our discussions after 140 years. Particularly at a university, we do this by thinking critically about ideas prevalent in times gone by and by making sure we are aware of how these views could still have a negative impact to this very day.” Read more on the subject >

If you have questions about the Kuyper Year of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, please contact

The Kuyper Year is financed by

More activities

  • Kuyper Challenge

    Abraham Kuyper was a social entrepreneur. This is why VU Amsterdam launched the Kuyper Challenge. A competition open to all VU Amsterdam (PhD) students and recent graduates with entrepreneurial ideas to help propel our society forward. During the VU New Year's Gala, the three nominees for the Kuyper Award were announced, which will be presented during the Deja VU on the Roof festival on 10 June. They will receive financial support and substantive assistance in the form of coaching sessions with top executives from the VU Amsterdam network.

  • Historical Kuyper

    The Historic Documentation Centre is closely involved in activities that honour Kuypers’ legacy during Kuyper Year. The HDC’s aims include the digitization of its archives to the extent possible, making them easily accessible. Kuyper will also be commemorated during various activities with the moniker Ten Times Kuyper.

  • Online expo: VU Amsterdam objects and their stories

    The online exhibition ‘VU Amsterdam objects and their stories’ presents a remarkable object from the VU Amsterdam heritage collection for every five years of university history. Past and present students, lecturers, researchers as well as employees will recount the tales that these objects can tell.

  • Online expo: 'BRAM' - Exhibition about the life of Abraham Kuyper

    In the Dutch online exhibition BRAM, the life of Abraham Kuyper is illustrated using a variety of objects. The exhibition takes you on a journey through Kuyper’s travels, his bouts of depression and the many cartoons made of the man. From 6 November, the exhibition 'BRAM' will also be on display in the Main Building of VU Amsterdam: on the 1st floor, next to the entrance to the University Library.

  • Artwork: 'Trinity - Kuyper revisited'

    What does Kuyper's legacy in 2020 mean and how can he still inspire us? Artists can examine the current significance of historical sources like no other. On the occasion of the Kuyper Year, artist Wafae Ahalouch (1987, Tangier, Morocco) created a work of art inspired by the legacy of Abraham Kuyper. The artwork, a tapestry with the title Trinity: Kuyper Revisited, hangs next to the entrance to the Auditorium in the VU Main Building. Read more.

  • Writer in residence essay competition

    In cooperation with Writer in Residence Maxim Februari, an essay competition was launched. The winners will be announced during the Abraham Kuyper Lecture on June 10.

  • Kuyper walk

    Using a podcast, a walk is organized along prominent historical spots in Amsterdam from Kuyper’s day and age. The podcast provides information as you walk the route past various historical locations. More information can be found here under the heading 'programme'.

  • Kuyper Week

    Our celebrations to mark 140 years of VU Amsterdam reached a festive climax during Kuyper Week. Four days of fascinating lectures, stimulating conversation and great music. With old favourites like the Abraham Kuyper Lecture, given by Writer in Residence Maxim Februari, and Déjà VU on the Roof with DJ Tom Trago and much more. And featuring brand-new events such as the Brave New Talk Shows, discussing the hot topics climate change, inequality and public trust with special guests including politician Kauthar Bouchallikht and Professor Azza Karam.

Read more and watch again

  • Online broadcast: Dies Natalis (foundation day)

    Dies Natalis is the day on which VU Amsterdam was founded, in other words, the university’s birthday. Although VU Amsterdam’s actual birthday is 20 October, the celebrations have been moved to Friday 6 November this year to be closer to the 100th anniversary of Kuyper’s death (8 November), in honour of his status as a figure who continues to inspire us today.

    This year’s Dies Natalis Lecture was given by a very special speaker: Her Majesty Queen Máxima. She discussed promoting entrepreneurship.

    Entrepreneurship is the very foundation of our prosperity and employment market; it is what gives our society its resilience and optimism about the future. Now that large sections of the business community are being badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly in the SME sector, we face a double challenge. Not only do we need to ensure that healthy businesses can survive the crisis, but we also need to maximize our capacity for growth in the longer term. As a member of the Netherlands Entrepreneurship Committee, this is a subject that Her Majesty Queen Máxima is particularly committed to. How can we ensure we have a dynamic business sector, both now and in the future? How can we finance the investment that is necessary for education, innovation and growth? Which management style and forms of business have the most potential? And how can we as (future) entrepreneurs and employees continue to get the best out of ourselves and continue to take pleasure in our work? Queen Máxima shares her perspective with us.

    At this celebratory gathering, honorary doctorates were also awarded to three individuals who have made their mark in the public domain at home and abroad in recent years: Khadija Arib, Ernst Fehr and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

    The actor and speaker Bright Richards (New Dutch Connections) gave a performance, and our Writer in Residence Maxim Februari shared his thoughts with us in the form of a spoken column.

    Watch the registration of the Dies Natalis 

  • Online broadcast: Talk shows achieving excellence in education

    We filmed three talk shows, during which we collected advice on how to improve education in the Netherlands. During the talk shows, an expert panel hosted by Karim Amghar discussed good examples in education. Those watching online were asked to contribute their own suggestions. An editorial board chaired by Renée van Schoonhoven assessed all the advice collected and selected the 23 most valuable recommendations for how to achieve outstanding education. During a concluding meeting on 21 April 2021 the 23 recommendations were presented by Renée van Schoonhoven to the chair of the National Education Council, Edith Hooge. That meeting was chaired by Paul Rosenmöller, chair of the Secondary Education Council.

    During three talk shows, we collected recommendations on how to improve education in the Netherlands. In these talkshows, an expert panel discussed good examples in education, led by presenter Karim Amghar. We also asked the digital audience for additions and their own suggestions. An editorial board chaired by Renée van Schoonhoven assessed the collected recommendations and selected the 23 most valuable recommendations for particularly good education. The 23 recommendations were then presented at a final meeting at the Vrije Universiteit on April 21, 2021. This meeting was led by Paul Rosenmöller, chair of the Secondary Education Council. There, the editorial chairman handed over the recommendations to Education Council President Edith Hooge.

    The themes for the three talk shows were: citizenship education, good governance and equal educational opportunities. Because of the coronation measures, the talkshows were broadcast from the VU. 

    You can watch the talkshows here.

  • Online broadcast: New Year's Gala

    During the New Year's Gala on Thursday, January 28, VU rolled out the red carpet for the most remarkable faculty, students, educational innovators, graduates, entrepreneurs and employees. During the online musical interactive game show, everyone was able to get to know the nominees for the various awards, the winners were cheered on, and the audience was tested on knowledge, skill and dress style in the big New Year's Gala quiz. This year's gala will have a Kuyper flavor, as the nominees for the Kuyper Challenge prize will also be announced. 

  • Online broadcast: Brave New Politics

    3 November presenter Marcia Luyten welcomed two special guests to VU Amsterdam. She was be joined by Minister Sigrid Kaag in conversation with honorary doctor Anne-Marie Slaughter, who will be beamed live from the United States. Their discussion included the issue of how a mature democracy deals with the political pressure of a populist. According to Slaughter, the resilience of a democracy is determined by informal and formal networks. Politics can only be effective if contact has been made with the public. What is happening in Europe, where the rule of law is also under pressure in such countries as Hungary and Poland? Sigrid Kaag put Anne-Marie Slaughter’s analysis in a European perspective.

  • Online broadcast: Opening of the Academic Year - Start Kuyper Year

    During the Opening of the Academic Year on Monday 31 August, the Kuyper Year, with a special focus on social entrepreneurship, has officially commenced. Abraham Kuyper founded VU Amsterdam with funds from brewer Willem Hovy; a type of social entrepreneurship before it was officially invented. During economic downturns, the VU community is always bursting with innovative ideas that deserve an entrepreneurial approach. This entrepreneurial approach to ideas will be making a vital difference. More than ever before, VU Amsterdam wants to be an incubator for start-ups. During the OAY Mirjam van Praag, President of the Executive Board, discussed inspirational VU examples with top executive Marry de Gaay Fortman and management guru Ben Tiggelaar and Van Praag introduced the new Kuyper Challenge; a competition for VU Amsterdam students and recent graduates with entrepreneurial ideas to propel our society forward.

    Watch the registration of the OAY here

  • Biography Willem Hovy

    On the occasion of the Kuyper year, the biography of entrepreneur Willem Hovy was published. In addition to his friend Abraham Kuyper, Hovy was one of the founders of VU Amsterdam as the first president of the university. Although he often stood in the shadow of the great Kuyper, Hovy was exceptionally active in many other areas: This is why he is referred to in literature as the "precursor of civil society". In the Dutch book "Brouwer naast God. Willem Hovy (1840-1915), ondernemer en filantroop" (English: Brewer next to God, Willem Hovy (1840-1915), entrepreneur and philanthropist), author Dr. Rolf van der Woude paints a multifaceted picture of the remarkable role that Hovy played in his time.

  • Adventures in the Kuyper archive

    This Kuyper year, our curator of the Protestant Heritage collections, Jasmijn Vervloet, would like to take you on an adventure in the Kuyper archive to gain a better understanding of Abraham Kuyper, the founder of VU Amsterdam.