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University ceremony

Dies natalis 2021

Monday 8 February 2021

Celebrate with us the 446th Dies Natalis of Leiden University on 8 February 2021.

This year, Professor Ineke Sluiter will deliver the Dies lecture, after which Professor Carel Stolker will give a short speech. An honorary doctorate will then be conferred on human rights and child rights activist Graça Machel by Leiden University via a live video link with South Africa.

On this special day we will bid farewell to our current Rector Magnificus and President, Professor Carel Stolker, who will hand the rectorate over to Professor Hester Bijl. The new President of the Executive Board will be Professor Annetje Ottow.

The ceremony will take place without attendees in the Pieterskerk in Leiden, but can be followed by everyone via a live stream on this page.

From 14:45 hrs:

  • Entry of limited procession
  • Opening address by Rector Magnificus Professor Carel Stolker
  • Dies lecture by Professor Ineke Sluiter
  • Presentation of two new books on the history of the university
  • Address by Professor Carel Stolker
  • Musical interlude
  • Conferral of honorary doctorate on Graça Machel
  • Transfer of rectorate
  • Musical interlude
  • Speech by the new Rector Magnificus Professor Hester Bijl
  • Close of ceremony


  • Carel Stolker Former Rector Magnificus & Chairman of the Executive Board/Professor emeritus Private Law

    Professor Carel Stolker studied, obtained his doctorate and taught at Leiden University, where he was appointed Professor of Civil Law in 1997. Between 2001 and 2011 he was first Vice-Dean and then Dean of the Faculty of Law, and in 2013 he was appointed Rector Magnificus and President of the Executive Board of Leiden University. Following two terms of office, he will hand over these two positions on 8 February to Hester Bijl and Annetje Ottow respectively.

  • Ineke Sluiter Professor of Greek Language and Literature / Academy Professor (KNAW)

    Professor Ineke Sluiter FBA has been professor of Greek Language and Literature at Leiden University since 1998. She is currently president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). Sluiter was for many years director of the National Research School in Classical Studies (OIKOS) and is currently head of the Gravitation programme ‘Anchoring Innovation’, which studies the place of innovation in Graeco-Roman antiquity. She is co-founder of Athena’s Angels, a group of four women professors who actively promote equal opportunities for women and men in science. Sluiter was awarded the Spinoza Prize in 2010.

Book presentations

  • Willem Otterspeer Professor emeritus of University History

    Emeritus Professor Willem Otterspeer studied History and Philosophy at Utrecht University and subsequently worked in the museum world. From 1979 he has worked at Leiden University, since 1997 as professor of University History. Otterspeer writes on the history of ideas and intellectual institutions. He obtained his doctorate cum laude in 1992 based on his dissertation De wiekslag van hun geest about Leiden University in the nineteenth century. This work formed the basis for a four-volume  history of Leiden University, the last part of which, De strategie van de aanpassing, will be presented during the Dies celebration. 

  • Pieter Slaman Assistant Professor

    Dr Pieter Slaman is a historian whose particular area of interest is government policy, education and science. He co-wrote In de regel vrij. 100 jaar politiek rond onderwijs, cultuur en wetenschap en Kansen in het Koninkrijk. Studiebeurzen 1815-2015. His dissertation Staat van de student discusses two centuries of government policy on study financing. Slaman's most recent work, De glazen toren. De Leidse universiteit 1970-2020 is an addition to Otterspeer's four-volume history and looks at the post-war history of Leiden University. This book will also be presented during the Dies celebration. 

  • Joanne van der Leun Professor of Criminology

    Professor Joanne van der Leun has been Dean of the Faculty of Law since 2016, embarking on her second term of office in 2019. As professor of Criminology, her main fields of interest are criminality, migration and human trafficking. Having worked at the Faculty since 2001, she was involved in setting up the Criminology programme and has also held various management positions. She worked previously at Utrecht University, where she also studied, and at Erasmus University, where she obtained her doctorate based on a dissertation on migrants who remain illegally in Dutch cities. 

  • Ton Liefaard Professor Children's Rights

    Professor Ton Liefaard studied Law at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam and obtained his doctorate based on his dissertation on Deprivation of Liberty of Children in Light of International Human Rights Law and Standards. Since September 2018 he has been Vice-Dean at the Faculty of Law. On 15 March 2018 he was appointed UNICEF Professor of Children's Rights (full time) at this Faculty. The remit of this chair is to promote structural attention for children's rights in scientific research and education in order to improve information and expertise in this field. He also regularly advises governments and organisations - both national and international - on various chidren's rights issues.

  • Graça Machel Champion of the rights of women and children

    Graça Machel is a member of The Elders, an independent group of world leaders who work together for peace and human rights. She was co-founder of this group, together with her husband  Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa. She is also an independent expert for the UN on the impact of armed conflicts on children, an international champion of women's and children's rights and former freedom fighter and Minister of Education and Culture in Mozambique.
    Photo: Zahur Ramji/Mediapix.
    Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic-licence.

  • Ab van der Touw Chairman of the Board of Governors Leiden University

    Ab van der Touw was appointed Chairman of the Board of Governors of Leiden University by the Minister for Education, Culture and Science in 2016 for a four-year period. He was a Board Member of the Platform Bèta Techniek that aims to increase the number of graduates (at all levels of education) with a science background. He was also member of Education Platform 2032 that advised State Secretary Dekker (Education, Culture and Science) on the future and curriculum for education at primary and secondary schools.  

  • Hester Bijl Rector Magnificus

    Professor Hester Bijl is professor of Numerical Mathematics and has held the post of Vice-Rector Magnificus at Leiden University since 1 November 2016. She studied Technical Mathematics at Delft University of Technology, where she also obtained her doctorate. As professor of Aerodynamics, she was Dean of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering. She was a member of the first cohort of the Young Academy of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and also a member of the board of KNAW. Hester Bijl will be inaugurated as Rector Magnificus at Leiden University on 8 February 2021. She will be the University's first female Rector Magnificus.

  • Annetje Ottow Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board Utrecht University

    Professor Annetje Ottow studied Law at Leiden University, and is Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board of Utrecht University, where she was previously dean of the Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance. She is also professor of Public Economic Law, the chair that she will hold at the Faculty of Law at Leiden University. She will be appointed President of theExecutive Board of Leiden University on 8 February 2021. She will be the first female to hold this position in Leiden. 

  • Martijn Ridderbos Vice-chairman of the Executive Board

    Martijn Ridderbos, RC, studied Business Economics at Erasmus University Rotterdam. After graduating, he began his career as a business consultant for government and non-profit organisations. In 2013 he became Chief Financial Officer and director of the  National Service Centre of the Public Pfrosecution Office. Until 2017 he was also assistant professor of Public Management at the School of Governance of Utrecht University, where he taught public management and public financial management. In May 2017 he was appointed Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board of Leiden University. His portfolio includes finance, ICT and real estate. 

  • Maarten Feteris Jurist, musician and composer

    Professor Maarten Feteris is a Dutch jurist. He was President of the Supreme Court from 1 November 2014 to 1 November 2020. He is now a councillor in the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, professor of Tax Law and Extraordinary Councillor. He is also a musician (piano) and composer. During this Dies Natalis, two of his pieces will be played, of which he composed the Intermezzo especially for this occasion.

  • Viride Quartet

The Viride Quartet was formed in April 2017 by violinists Salomé Bonnema and Iris Kengen, violist Sedna Heitzman and cellist Jurre Koopmans. They met at the School for Young Talent at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague.

Since its foundation, the ensemble has participated in the Orlando Festival and the Zeister Muziekdagen, among others, and performed several times on the Podium Witteman television programme and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the Muziekgebouw Eindhoven and the Stadsschouwburg Nijmegen. In 2018, the Viride Quartet won second prize at the National Finals of the Prinses Christina Concours.

Trumpeters Saintwa Ye and Bente Boots will join the quartet for the rendition of the work Intermezzo.

Due to the coronavirus measures, the usual procession of professors will not be taking place this year. Professors attending the ceremony via the video wall are therefore requested to appear on screen in their toga. 

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