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Hague city councillors on working visit: ‘The Hague is becoming a real student city’

What does the University mean for The Hague? And what are researchers and students learning from the city and its residents? The Hague city councillors visited Campus The Hague on 27 September and spoke to administrators and researchers. ‘From Schilderswijk to Benoordenhout: we are a university for the whole city.’

‘Our Hague campus has grown considerably,’ said Martijn Ridderbos, Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board, at the start of the working visit in the Wijnhaven building. Since its arrival in The Hague in 1999, the University now has five locations there, with around 7,000 students. ‘We want to grow responsibly,’ he stressed. ‘Ask us all your questions. That will help us develop the campus.’ The councillors and political group staff were pleased to take advantage of the invitation. What about student housing? Joren Noorlander (D66) wanted to know. Erwin Muller, Chair of Campus The Hague, explained that although the University cannot build housing, it has put student housing on the agenda and is promoting it on a taskforce with the municipality.

Martijn Ridderbos and Erwin Muller talking to city councillors.

From international law to health

Leiden University deliberately only offers programmes in The Hague that match the city’s profile, Muller noted. These are programmes in international law and peace, international relations, urban issues, security, the public sector and health and health care for a very diverse population. Muller: ‘From Schilderswijk to Benoordenhout: we are a university for the whole city.’ This appealed to councillors, as the sessions with researchers who are working with professionals and residents in various ‘city labs’ showed.

‘Do you take children from migrant backgrounds into account?’

Children of the City

Professor Judi Mesman talked about her Children of the City project: students and researchers are doing various things in schools in The Hague. Mesman wants to develop a clear ‘counter’ so that both schools and students have a better overview of all initiatives and make it easier for them to find one another. ‘Do you take children with a migration background into account?’ asked Nizaam Muradin (DENK). ‘Definitely!’ said Mesman.  For example, students are working at Regenboogschool in Laakkwartier. They supervise pupils in all kinds of activities, which also gives them a lot of help with language acquisition through play. ‘What do you need from the municipality?’ asked Hera Butt (GroenLinks). She mentioned the Pep Den Haag network organisation, which could also contribute to the project, and invited Mesman, who was pleased with all the suggestions, to come to a debate.

Professor Judi Mesman

Cleaner and more sustainable

Associate Professor of Environmental Sciences Thijs Bosker explained how his students are trying to make The Hague cleaner and more sustainable. They do this sometimes quite literally, by picking up thousands of pieces of plastic from the street, alongside research and working with the residents. In the Thesis Project Zuidwest, students research issues in the neighbourhood and make tailored recommendations for professionals and the police as well as for residents, says coordinator Mandy Koenraads. Tim de Boer (Haagse Stadspartij) noted that the Zuidwest district does not have a school with a havo (higher general secondary education) and vwo (pre-university education) department, which makes it extra important that children in this neighbourhood are involved in research and educational projects.

Health and patient care

The visit clearly met a need as some councillors have only been on the council since this year and are hearing about projects and collaborations for the first time, Muradin from DENK noted. He was not yet familiar with Health Campus The Hague, the partnership in which the LUMC and the university are working together with healthcare institutions in the Hague region to improve patient care and the health of residents.

City councillors in conversation with scientists.

Student city

The councillors were also very curious about the plans for the new Spuigebouw. This former iconic building that housed the V & D department store will open its doors in 2025 and will provide space for degree programmes and partnerships with the city.  ‘We are deliberately choosing this visible spot in the city centre to have a friendly presence in The Hague,’ Ridderbos said. Noorlander (D66), like the other councillors, said he would continue to follow developments critically, but is also very enthusiastic. ‘The Hague is becoming more and more of a real student city!’

Photos: Ehlana van Roijen

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