The VU University Amsterdam
(in Dutch: Vrije Universiteit
, literal translation is "Free University") is a university
, the Netherlands
. The Dutch name is often abbreviated as VU. The board of trustees is the Vereniging VU-Windesheim
, which also manages the Christelijke Hogeschool Windesheim University of Applied Sciences
and VUmc, which is the university's Medical Center. The university is run by an executive board ("College van Bestuur" in Dutch
) which makes decisions in consultation with the Board of Deans ("College van Decanen" in Dutch). The university is located on a compact urban campus in the southern part of Amsterdam in the Buitenveldert district.
The university should not be confused with the University of Amsterdam, which is a different university, located all over the city.
The VU University Amsterdam has about 18,000 students, most of which are full-time students. The number of faculty members and researchers is 2200 (of whom 300 are full professors). The teaching and research activities are supported by 1600 administrative, clerical, technical, and other employees. The university's annual budget is around US$500 million, about two third of which comes from the Dutch government. Tuition, research grants, and industrial contracts provide the rest.
The logo of the university is the griffin, pictured on the right. The position of its wings symbolizes the freedom in the university's name. The griffin is also referred to as the VU chicken.
The VU was founded in 1880 by Abraham Kuyper as the first Protestant university in The Netherlands. Kuyper was a Dutch politician, journalist, and prime minister of The Netherlands from 1901 to 1905. He was a professor of theology at the VU as well as the first '‘rector magnificus’ (President of the University).
Vrije Universiteit literally means Free University (better: Liberated University) to signify freedom from both government and church. The education itself, however, is not free of cost. To overcome this association, recently a decision was made to use the term VU University instead of Free University whenever the English translation is needed.
As at all accredited universities in The Netherlands, students pay a (government determined) tuition, which is currently (2007) approximately US$2000/year for students from the European Union and US$12,000/year for students from elsewhere. Most Dutch students receive a grant or loan from the government to cover tuition and living expenses.
Although current students and faculty members are adherents of many religions, as a consequence of its Protestant heritage, the VU has always placed a special emphasis on the social and cultural context in which it operates. Many faculties offer courses teaching students about the historical, social, and cultural issues related to their discipline, with course names like "Social Aspects of Science". Topics such as the consequences of science for society, ethics, and related issues are discussed.
Recent rectores magnifici (University Presidents) have been:
- 1983-1987 Pieter Drenth
- 1987-1993 Cees Datema
- 1993-1997 Egbert Boeker
- 1997-2006 Taede Sminia
- 2006-today Lex Bouter
Organisationally, the university is divided into 12 faculties, which offer a great variety of bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. programmes in many fields. These faculties are:
The language of instruction for the bachelor's courses is Dutch. However, many of the master's programmes are given entirely in English in order to attract students from outside The Netherlands. In fact, in some master's programmes, international students outnumber the Dutch students by a large margin.
The Ph.D. programme is different from that in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Rather than applying to the university for admission in the winter, prospective students must find a (full) professor who has a position for a Ph.D. student, called an AiO (Assistant in Opleiding--Assistant in Training), and contact him or her directly. Most professors and faculties advertise their open positions on their Websites. AiOs are paid a salary and are considered university employees. They do not have to pay tuition.
From its humble beginnings, the VU has become a modern research university. The research focus is given by the VU-star, which emphasizes seven broad areas in which the university excels:
- Communication, knowledge, and meaning
- Computerization and digitization
- Economics and society
- Health and disease
- Legal and administrative issues
- Life sciences
- System earth
Many of these research foci are interdisciplinary, with faculty members and students from multiple faculties working together to forge new breakthroughs. Some of the key faculty members are listed below.
- Henri Bal, professor of Computer Science and author of several books, who together with his student John Romein wrote a program that broke the ancient game of Oware (Awari) and gives the best move in any situation, usually leading to a forced win.
- Jan Peter Balkenende, the current Prime Minister of the Netherlands, was a special professor of "Christian-Social Thought".
- Dorret Boomsma, professor of biological psychology and winner of the Spinozapremie
- Brad Bushman, since 2005 a visiting professor from the University of Michigan in United States who is a foremost expert on the causes and consequences of human aggression.
- Jet Bussemaker, assistant professor of political science 1991-2001, now undersecretary of the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport
- Jaap Doek, professor of law and chairman of the U.N. Committee of the Rights of the Child (2001-2007)
- James Kennedy, professor of modern history (20th century) (2003-2007)
- Pieter Kooijmans, currently a Judge on the International Court of Justice, Professor of International and European Law (1965-1973)
- Peter Koslowski the ethicist and philosopher, author of nearly 20 books
- Peter Nijkamp, professor of spatial economics, president of the governing board of the Netherlands Research Council (NWO), and winner of the Spinozapremie
- Bob Pinedo, professor of medicine, director of the VUmc Cancer Center, and winner of the Spinazopremie
- Ronald Plasterk, professor of molecular biology, 1993-1997, winner of the Spinozapremie, currently Minister of Education (2007)
- Piet Rietveld, professor of economics, and leading researcher in transport economics
- Jan Smit, professor of earth science, was one of the people who contributed to the theory that an impact of a meteor near Mexico caused the ending of the Dinosaur age about 65 million years ago.
- Andrew S. Tanenbaum, professor of Computer Science who wrote the MINIX operating system, the inspiration and precursor to Linux. Tanenbaum is the author of five textbooks, which have been translated into over 20 languages and are used at universities all over the world. He is also the founder and webmaster of electoral-vote.com.
- Richard Tol, professor of economics, and leading researcher in the economics of climate change.
- Pier Vellinga, director of the Climate Centre
Notable graduates and former students
- Christine Aaftink, multiple National Champion Sprint (skating) and winner of medals at the WC; studied at the faculty of Human Movement Sciences
- Gerrit Cornelis Berkouwer, influential theologian and professor at the Vrije Universiteit
- Jan Peter Balkenende, current Prime Minister of the Netherlands, studied history and law at the VU
- Wouter Bos, party leader of the Dutch Labour Party and current Minister of Finance of the Netherlands, studied political science and economics at VU
- Elco Brinkman, previous leader of the CDA party, studied political science and law at the VU
- K.J. Martijn Cremers, associate professor of finance at Yale School of Management
- Wim Deetman, Mayor of The Hague, studied political science at the VU
- Piet Hein Donner, Minister of Justice in several cabinets (Balkenende I, II, III) and Minister of Social Affairs (Balkenende IV), studied law at the VU
- Herman Dooyeweerd, founder of Reformational Philosophy, got his Ph.D. at the VU and became a full professor there
- Mient-Jan Faber, well-known peace activist, studied mathematics and physics at the VU and is currently adjunct professor there
- Bas de Gaay Fortman, the world's only Chair in Political Economy of Human Rights
- Pim Fortuyn, the assassinated party leader of the LPF studied sociology at the VU.
- Hans van Goor, long-distance swimmer
- Laetitia Griffith, former alderman in the Amsterdam city council, now member of the Dutch parliament, studied law at the VU
- Nico Habermann, well-known computer scientist and professor at Carnegie Mellon University
- Marijke Höweler, writer, studied psychology at the VU.
- Bert Koenders, Minister of Developmental Cooperation in the cabinet Balkenende IV, studied social science at the VU
- Pauline Krikke, former alderman in the Amsterdam city council, now mayor of Arnhem
- Leo Smith, President of ESN Sheffield.
- Dolf Jansen and Hans Sibbel, together form the comedy team "Lebbis en Jansen," both studied at the VU
- Jona Lendering, Historian and author of seven books, mostly about antiquity
- Linda de Mol, Dutch and German celebrity, who gained her celebrity status from hosting tv shows and acting in movies
- Atzo Nicolaï , Minister of Government Reform and Kingdom Relations in the cabinet Balkenende III, studied law and political science at the VU
- Lewis B. Smedes, American Reformed ethicist and author; also visiting professor at VU
- Nico Rienks, double Olympic Champion rowing (1988, 1996); studied at the faculty of Human Movement Sciences
- André Rouvoet, Minister of Youth and Family Affairs and Vice-Prime Minister in the cabinet Balkenende IV, studied law at the VU
- Robert Charles Sproul, a popular American Reformed theologian and apologist
- Werner Vogels, Chief Technology Officer and Vice President of Amazon.com, got his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the VU
- Gerrit Zalm, Minister of Finance in the cabinets Kok I, Kok II, Balkenende II and Balkenende III, studied and taught economics at VU.