Opening Academic Year 2017

Thin ice! What can science do to help?

‘The new government must pursue a clear, long-term climate policy.’ That was the message delivered by the leaders of the Dutch business community after a three-day expedition to the Arctic. The trip was organized by documentary maker Bernice Notenboom. She succeeded in convincing these top managers by making them see the melting polar ice cap with their own eyes. 

What can scientists learn from Ms Notenboom? How can they get everyone to grasp the true urgency of global warming? And might these lessons also be applicable to other major social issues involving science?

Bernice Notenboom, Bas Heijne – the Writer in Residence, and Jaap Winter – President of the Executive Board, will address this question during the opening ceremony to mark the new academic year. In addition, the British writer and religious scholar Karen Armstrong will receive an honorary doctorate, for her compassionate contribution to the debate about the position of different religions in society. Also, the StudenTalent Award will go to a VU Amsterdam student who has distinguished himself/herself in intellectual and social terms. 

You are very welcome to attend the opening ceremonies to mark the new academic year.


14:15Reception in the Foyer
  • Start of the academic session in the Aula 
  • Opening speech by Jaap Winter, President of the Executive Board 
  • Lecture by Bernice Notenboom 
  • Presentation of StudenTalent Award 
  • Musical intermezzo 
  • Conferral of honorary doctorate on Karen Armstrong 
  • Reflection by Bas Heijne – Writer in Residence 
  • Concluding remarks by Jaap Winter
16:30Reception in the Foyer

The programme will take place in the Aula, in the Main Building, VU Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam. The session can also be followed live, via this page, on Monday 4 September.

Professors are invited to take part in the procession. To this end, they should be in the Foyer no later than 15 minutes before the start of the session. It would be appreciated if the professors were to wear their university gowns.

Do you have any questions? If so, send an email to