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Leiden-Delft-Erasmus can play an important role in global challenges

Annetje Ottow, president of the Executive Board of Leiden University, has been the new chair of the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus (LDE) strategic alliance for just two months. What does she want to achieve during her two-year chairmanship?

What is Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities?

‘LDE is an alliance of universities in South Holland. Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam complement one another, which means that together we are able to build further on our strengths and make a difference in major societal issues. That could be such issues as combining technical knowledge from Delft, behavioural knowledge from Leiden and economics expertise from Rotterdam. We also bring together an array of multidisciplinary knowledge on environmental or migration issues. And now there is the new collaboration within LDE on Space for Science and Society, where engineers from Delft, lawyers and astronomers from Leiden and experts from the School of Management in Rotterdam pool their knowledge. In terms of education, LDE has joint bachelor’s and master’s programmes, which gives students at one university the opportunity to take a minor at one of the other partners. LDE also organises trainee programmes for professionals from the three universities.’ 

What does LDE mean at regional, national and international level?

‘As an alliance of three universities, we can have a real impact in our own region. The Province of South Holland, for example, is very happy with our partnership: it sees LDE as a one-stop shop. If there’s a problem or question, the province doesn’t have to think about who to approach; they can just get in touch with us and as LDE we will see where the right expertise is.’ 

‘At national level, we’re very much a front-runner. Universities are increasingly being asked to work together - something we’ve been doing for the past ten years. And internationally, we’re seeing that with the three universities together we are becoming a much more interesting entity. You can see that, for example in our International Centre for Frugal Innovation. By pooling our knowledge, we are able to devise innovations for developing countries. These innovations are then modified to take into account the circumstances in a country and the level of technology available there.’

What is your role as chair of LDE?

‘The members of the Executive Boards of the three universities together make up the board of LDE. As chair, I speak on their behalf and I’m the discussion partner for the LDE dean Wim van den Doel. He is responsible for the daily management, coordination and governance of the alliance. I see myself as a motivator, asking critical questions about the long term and trying to bring new issues to the agenda.’ 

What would you like to put on the agenda in the coming two years of your chairmanship?

‘Together with the three boards, we think about where we can collaborate more intensively in the coming years. One area we’re exploring is how to further develop our joint education. What is needed to achieve that, and can we share teaching locations, for example? We’ve also started the project LDE Global: Research and Education with the Majority World (for regions in Latin America, Asia and Africa). Our combined knowledge of these regions is enormous, and we work together with universities and NGOs in these regions on all kinds of issues. It would be very rewarding to expand this further together. With global challenges like climate change and the corona pandemic, it’s important to collect knowledge from around the world. We shouldn’t only send to each other, but also need to learn from each other and work together. That’s an area where I think LDE can play an important role.'

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