University College Utrecht

University College Utrecht

Infobox University
name = University College Utrecht

caption =
latin_name =
motto = Sol Iustitiae Illustra Nos (Sun of Justice, shine upon us)
established = 1999
type = Liberal arts college
dean = Prof.dr. R.J.F.M. van der Vaart (Rob)
faculty =
students =
undergrad = 700
postgrad =
city = flagicon|Netherlands Utrecht
province = Utrecht
country = Netherlands
address = Campusplein 1, 3584ED
telephone = +31 (0)30 253 9900
campus = Urban
free_label =
free =
sports =
colours =
mascot =
athletics =
affiliations = Utrecht University
nobel_laureates =
website = []

footnotes =

University College Utrecht (UCU) is the international Honors College of Utrecht University (UU). UCU is a selective liberal arts, undergraduate college of 700 students within Utrecht University. Located between the two Utrecht University sites, Uithof and City Centre, it has its own residential campus in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. The language of instruction is English. The Anglosaxon style of the College is highly unusual in the Netherlands, hence the lengthy explanations below.


UCU's residential and educational Campus is located at the former Kromhout Kazerne, a turn of the century military base that used to be part of the Dutch Water Line. The students live in the oldest quarter of the base, the other three quarters remain in possession of the Dutch Ministry of Defense.

Room and Board

Students are housed in student accommodation on the Campus terrain. The Dining Hall provides three meals throughout term-time, two in weekends. The college also has its own bar, "The UCSA College Bar".

During the summer most students leave the campus and there is only limited accommodation to stay on campus. Upon return the next year the students move into a new room, a new 'unit', with new housemates. The houses have 2 to 12 private rooms and shared communal spaces (bathroom facilities and a living room with a kitchenette).

tudent Population

As of 2007 University College Utrecht consisted of 675 students. Of these 675 students, 67% is of Dutch nationality. The remaining 33% covers a wide range of nationalities. [, page 34] All students are automatically members of the University College Student Association [ (UCSA)] which organises social and creative activities and is led by the UCSA Board, which consists of six members that are annually elected. Additionally, the All Students Interest Council [ (ASIC)] defends students' interests in both academic and residential matters (board and housing). Like the UCSA Board, the ASIC members are annually elected by the students. Finally, there are also two fraternities (Onafhankelijk Heeren Genootschap Equites and Disputum primus Erectus), two sororities (O.D.D. Allure and [ Luna] ) and a fratority (Felix).

Life on campus

The 700 students at UCU form a tight community and are in constant touch with each other. This is because of the relatively small size of the campus, the wide variety of activities organised by the several dozen UCSA committees, the campus bar, several fraternities and sororities and mixed on-campus housing. The campus bar is the heart of campus life. Especially every Tuesday and Friday and on special nights the bar is packed with a large part of the students living at UCU, as well as alumni and off-campus friends.

The student committees are also an important part of campus life. Activities include such things as sports, music and politics. To emphasize the international character of the college, UCU organises a much appraised Model United Nations every year; UNISUN.

Academic Buildings

The classes are in four academic buildings. These stand around the central quad on both sides of the College Hall and house the four departments, each named after a famous philosopher/scientist:

*Voltaire houses the Humanities department which covers History, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Literature, Art History, Museum Studies, and Linguistics.
*Locke houses the Social Sciences Department which covers Law, Psychology, Political Sciences, Human Geography, Economics, Anthropology and Sociology.
*Newton houses the Sciences Department which covers Life Sciences, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences. Historically appropriate, the Newton building is endowed with a 'Leibniz room'.
*Descartes houses the Academic Core department which covers the obligatory courses in Academia, Methods & Statistics and the Modern Languages (Spanish, Dutch for foreigners, French, German, Italian. A track in Chinese is has recently been developed and is now available. Students are expected to learn at least one new foreign language). Furthermore, it covers such courses as Multimedia and Creative Writing.

An interesting aside regarding Descartes and the University of Utrecht: in March 2005 the University of Utrecht lifted an old ban on the teachings of René Descartes. This went back to a 17th century dispute between the famous French philosopher and the Dutch Calvinist theologian Gisbertus Voetius, nicknamed 'The Pope in Utrecht', the first head ('rector magnificus') of the university. [ (in Dutch, PDF)]

election of Students

Students admission policy is based on merit, broad academic interest, and motivation. The application procedure includes submission of a letter of motivation, references, an English proficiency requirement, as well as an interview: all this is relatively extra-ordinary in the Netherlands. It is also still a very controversial issue legally and socially; as a result UCU has acquired somewhat of a reputation for elitism and snobbery, which is occasionally expressed in both national and regional press. Mostly, UCU's student body is of a comparable socio-economic background to the general university population in the Netherlands. And quite a number of Dutch and international UCU students have to come by on loans and jobs, which is not easy given the intensity of the College's academic programme. For this reason UCU has established a Student Aid Fund and is actively seeking funds; the College has recently encountered difficulties securing scholarships for foreign students. An additional challenge towards UCU's aim to ensure a broad and diverse international student population have been the disappointing recent government moves that have made it more difficult for some foreigners to obtain a residence permit for the Netherlands.


UCU is a three year undergraduate programme leading to a B.Sc. or B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences. The College offers no Masters courses, but students have direct access to those offered at the University of Utrecht. Students of UCU are also students of the University of Utrecht and therefore also have access to all its services, such as libraries.

Academic calendar

The academic year begins in the last week of August or first week of September and it is divided in two semesters of 16 weeks (including one week Mid-term Break). And each semester a student takes 4 courses. There is an optional 5 week Summer or Third Term, during which a student takes one course that can be used to acquire extra credit, to do a special course (such as a Laboratory Course), or to compensate for a failed course.

The graduation ceremony is usually held in June in the gothic 'Dom' church in Utrecht's medieval city centre or the City Theatre (Stadsschouwburg). The ceremony is in many ways contrary to Dutch traditions: graduating students wear a cap and gown, there is a valedictorian who speaks, and the Alumni Award is presented by the University College Alumni Association [ (UCAA)] to a student with an outstanding academic and social record.

An honours degree is awarded to those graduating with a GPA of 3.0 and higher; in addition, there are three levels of distinction ("cum laude" for those with a GPA between 3.5 and 3.79, "magna cum laude" for students with a GPA between 3.8 and 3.89, and "summa cum laude" for students with a GPA of 3.9 or higher).


After their first year students elect a major in either Humanities, Social Sciences, Sciences, a double major in any two of these or a dual-major in a combination of these. In the latter case a student will have to make a convincing argument to the Director of Education.

Students are encouraged to experiment in combining courses, thereby encouraging cross-disciplinary research and interests. In any major a student needs to take 10 courses, of which three at the advanced level and in at least two different fields of study. This will lead to the BA degree (Bachelor or Arts). A BSc degree (Bachelor of Science) requires 12 courses in the Sciences department, the extra two courses being two lab courses to be taken in the Summer or Third term. Furthermore, a student is required to take at least one course in each department, learn one new foreign language, and pass the core courses Academic English & Introduction to academia, and one course appropriate to the major.

Each course is worth 4 UCU credits (or 7.5 ECTS). There is continuous assessment based on papers/essays, presentations, class participation and exams. Grades are on the A-F scale (A being 4.0).

Exchange programmes

Apart from taking courses at other universities in the Netherlands, UCU students have the opportunity to go on exchange to a wide variety of highly respected universities world-wide from the University of California to Kyoto University and also including one prestigious place annually at St John's College, Cambridge in the UK.


The College also publishes its own academic magazine [ "Eidos"] with an editorial board consisting of both staff and students. The editors are usually students. Every summer it combines the 10 most interesting and best of the student papers produced during the last academic year with a specially themed photography series, commissioned by one of the students.

History and Philosophy

Founded in 1998 by Hans Adriaansens and formally founded in 1999, UCU was the first honors college of the Netherlands. Subsequently an honors program was initiated in Maastricht, University College Maastricht, and recently Hans Adriaansens founded the Roosevelt Academy in his native Middelburg, also ancestral home to the US presidential Roosevelt-family.

Hans Adriaansens wanted to offer students an alternative to the great 'education factories' that are, in his opinion, the Dutch universities: impersonal, inefficient, and one-size-fits-all. He started UCU amongst others to get the discussion on Higher Education in the Netherlands going: there should be more attention to the highest performers if the Netherlands wanted to keep competitive in the world market.

Hans Adriaansens' selective colleges are still highly controversial in the Netherlands. There is still some doubt as to the legality of UCU's practices, as the Dutch law guarantees access to Higher Education to all in the possession of a "VWO"-diploma (Cf. English A-levels) and university education cannot be denied. UCU exploits a loophole in this law by having students apply to a programme at Utrecht University and only afterwards 'inviting' them to come and study at UCU, which is a 'master-class' of several of Utrecht University's other departments. Hence the title 'Honors College'.


UCU's efforts are paying off: alumni of UCU have been accepted into programmes at prestigious universities worldwide, such as the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Harvard University, and the University of California. UCU's alumni are represented by the [ University College Alumni Association (UCAA)] .

In June 2007, University College Utrecht was evaluated on many facets by a unique joint commission consisting of both a council from QANU, an independent assessor of higher education programs in Holland, as well as delegates from the American Higher Learning Commission. The report graded the quality of its education and the level achieved as "excellent". It praised UCU's ambitious international mission and found the college to be in an outstanding position to develop its own brand of Liberal Arts and Sciences to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


The following figures apply to the academic year 2008-2009. Students pay € 7348.-- for 10 months Room & Board service. Students from within the European Economic Area pay a tuition fee of € 1565.--, Non-EEA students pay € 6500.--. All students pay an International Profile fee of € 650.-- and a contribution of € 50.-- to the UCSA (University College Students Association). [ [ University College Utrecht - Fees and financial assistance ] ]

External links

* [ Official website] University College Utrecht
* [ The interactive platform 'UCUniverse' for students, alumni, faculty and professional partners]


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