New Year's Speech Radboud University 2018

Date of news: 8 January 2018

New Year's Speech 2018 Radboud University, delivered on Monday 8 January by Daniël Wigboldus, president of the executive board. Some links in this text go to Radboudnet (intranet Radboud University, only accessible with a log-in code).

Welcome to the new year’s gathering. Welcome, members of the foundation board, Radboud university medical center—specifically Leon van Halder, it’s a pleasure to see you—staff members, and students. On behalf of the Executive Board, I would like to wish you all a wonderful 2018.

Daniël Wigboldus spreekt nieuwjaarsrede uit

I consider it an honour to be able to give this new year’s address today, for the first time, as President of the Executive Board. It’s no use trying to emulate Gerard Meijer, who stepped down from his position as President of the Executive Board at the beginning of the year. I can’t compete with the way he arrived on a bicycle or the powerful manner in which he delivered the New Year Address over the past few years, but I will try my best.

2018 will be an important year for our university. There are many developments on the campus. We are breaking things down, building things up, and changing locations.

This year, we are also celebrating the 95th anniversary of our university. At the end of this meeting, Rector Magnificus Han van Krieken will kick off our anniversary year.

Before that, I would like to highlight a few topics that will play a part in the year to come. Wilma de Koning will present the Hermesdorf Awards. But first, let’s look back on the past year.

Looking back on 2017

You probably noticed several photos from 2017 as you came in: these are from our new Instagram account Radboud in the Picture. It’s a way of making our university more visible through pictures. The music that you heard was The Sweet Science by Vulfpeck.


I would like to start this new year’s gathering with a look back at the education we provide. We have 37 Bachelor’s programmes and 74 Master’s programmes.
The good news: according to the Keuzegids Universiteiten (University Selection Guide), we have become even better over the past year. A little side note on this: Groningen did just a bit better than we did, which moved us down to second place in the ranking of best comprehensive universities after six years at the top of the list. This year, let’s try to reclaim our spot from Groningen.

We once again passed the institutional audit for quality assurance with flying colours. Allow me to quote a few remarks from the report: “The administrative model of Radboud University is based on confidence in its staff members (...) It is (...) striking that this vision of education is truly alive and well within the institution and at all levels (...) The involvement of the students and staff members (...) is great (...) This ‘connection’ with each other and with the institution is something the panel finds to be a strong point of Radboud University.”
The chair of the panel even mentioned the “Radboud model”.

We all know that good education does not begin with the quality system, but with good lecturers. Fortunately, we have many of them. Here you can see some colleagues who performed well when it came to the various educational awards at our university as well as Mike Jetten, who received the Supervisor of the Year Award on the recommendation of the PhD candidates. Top-notch research and top-notch education go hand in hand.

Mike Jetten en promovendiMike Jetten surrounded by 'his' PhD students

Educational innovation is the product of people who dare to experiment. At the same time, we must harness the power of collaboration. Highlighting our educational support services shows that unity is also key to improving our quality and efficiency. This applies in particular to the use of ICT. If each degree programme opts for its own digital testing system as opposed to a joint system, the work required will be multiplied, when instead we could be taking valuable steps forward together by collaborating wisely.

Since October, more than 500 students have been able to simultaneously take a digital exam using Chromebooks. It’s a beautiful sight to behold.

digitaal tentamen

Here is another great example. In the context of our ICT proeftuinen (experimental gardens), Work and Organizational Psychology launched PeerApp, an app developed by colleagues in Artificial Intelligence. Students give each other feedback via the app and lecturers guide the process. It is a didactically powerful principle. In the upcoming academic year, we want to make this innovation widely available for all lecturers.

Unfortunately, using ICT is not always smooth sailing. Here is former Rector Magnificus, now emeritus, Bas Kortmann at Radboud Rocks listening to a protest song with a noteworthy name by the student band Blueshift about the printing system Peage. The song came out of the blue and stole the number one spot on the Radboud Top 40. It was effective, too—the biggest problems have since been fixed. This song can now be considered as one of the quality control instruments of this university.

protestlied over peage blueshift

Good lecturers in primary and secondary education are essential for the quality of schools. For this reason, universities and schools are working together more and more intensively. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU) organised the conference “Meer academici voor de klas” (More academics teaching) at our campus. We are pleased that the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) gave us permission to go ahead with PWPO (Pedagogical Sciences in Primary Education), a three-year university Bachelor’s programme for lecturers in primary education, as well as the two-year Master’s programmes for teacher training in which the Master’s programme and the teacher training programme are combined. This involves close collaboration between various faculties and our Radboud Graduate School of Education.

With regard to scientific education, there was a great deal of discussion about the language of instruction for the education we provide, including discussions at our university as well.
In addition to the English-language Master’s programmes, there is an increasing number of English-language Bachelor’s programmes. To what degree is this a desirable development? The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) wrote a report that suggests the selection of the language of instruction should not be automatic. There must be good arguments for it. Radboud University reflects this in its own policy.
During the NPO Radio1 debate with Frits Spits in the University Library, Rector Magnificus Han van Krieken made a powerful argument for the multilingual university that we are and want to be.

taaldebat radio 1

Language debate on radio 1, with from the left presenter Frits Spits, Han van Krieken and Marc van Oostendorp (Radboud University).

In keeping with this multilingual ambition, Radboud in’to Languages has grown enormously over the past 25 years. During the anniversary celebration, Director Liesbet Korebrits received the bronze Radboud Medal. Language is at the heart of our organisation. That is why we aspire to have our lecturers reach the highest language level: C2 for experts.

Unfortunately, this is not everyone’s cup of tea, evidenced by the petition against English in education presented to us by a number of psychology students. Our decision for providing education in English or any other language is based on whether it contributes to the quality. This will be determined per degree programme and course in the future as well.


Now, on to the research at our university. A lot has happened in the past year. Here are a few examples and there will be many more to follow this morning.

Healthy Brain is an important research theme at Radboud university medical center, the Max Planck Institute, and Radboud University.
Dozens of researchers from various academic disciplines are collaborating on a cohort study and have organised a designathon for it. In 2019, they will closely follow 1000 citizens of Nijmegen. The study should lead to a unique data set with which we can begin to better understand cognition, affection, and behaviour in daily life in relation to environmental factors and biological factors, including the brain. This research is local with an international appeal. The study design will be ready in the spring.

In the autumn, the Volkskrant announced that at least 30,000 biomedical publications were based on the wrong cells, because “contaminated cell lines” were being used. This news article was based on research by Willem Halffman and Serge Horbach. A researcher who thinks they are working with human skin cancer cells may in fact be dealing with cells from a mouse tail. This is noteworthy because the list of contaminated cell lines is available. It is of great importance that one always remains critical in science. We as academics teach this to our students, but luckily, we continue to point these things out to each other as well.

Science is progressively becoming more of a team sport. Whose name goes at the top of the publication if the work was done by a group? Each discipline has its own rules, both written and unwritten. These sometimes present a dilemma. How do you handle this? Professors, PhD candidates, and students discussed this during an afternoon on authorship in the context of integrity. The conclusion? Make clear agreements with each other beforehand.


In order to do our research, we require funding. Even though the regular route to research grants sometimes seems more crowded than the Heyendaalseweg during weekday rush hour, our researchers were fairly successful over the past year. Here you can see the Radboud researchers who received a Veni, Vidi, or Vici grant. During this round, our university had the most Vici’s of all Dutch universities: six.

Dutch universities perform above average when it comes to obtaining research grants from the European Research Council. Radboud University performs above average when compared to other Dutch universities. Example: In 2017, 20 ERC Consolidator Grants were awarded to the Netherlands. 5 of these went to Nijmegen researchers, who you can see in the picture. It is important to note that our colleague Judith Holler—the photo to the far right—submitted her request from the Max Planck Institute.

Mike Jetten was the first researcher to the receive the ERC Advanced Grant for the second time a few years ago. This year, Roeland Nolte also received the Advanced Grant for the second time—the second came after he retired. Science knows no age restrictions.

We are also proud of the first Gravitation grant received by the humanities. Our classicists, along with their colleagues at Leiden University, will receive nearly 20 million euros for research into the innovative processes in antiquity called “Anchoring Innovation”.

Societal impact

Social relevance is an important source of inspiration for our education and research and we do a great deal to share our knowledge.

When Radboud Reflects realised that Amsterdam would no longer be holding its annual Night of Philosophy, they moved the event to Nijmegen. This was a great success. The Lindenberg was completely sold out. <foto nacht filosofie via Marie Jose> At this event, our own René ten Bos was named Denker des Vaderlands (“Thinker Laureate”) for the second consecutive year. These are the impressive outreach numbers for Radboud Reflects in 2017.

Radboud researchers were also present at other festivals: brain research was presented during the Vierdaagsefeesten (see video below, in Dutch) and we were demonstrating typing without hands at Lowlands, too.

Our students are active in society as well. At an environmental competition for students from all across the world, three Nijmegen students took home silver at The Icepack Solution in Canada. Fishermen frequently use plastic bags with ice to keep their fish cold. They throw these bags away afterwards. Our students devised an on-site refrigeration tool made from recycled plastic, which eliminates the need for fishermen to use plastic bags.

worlds challenge challenge

In January, Coen van Galen successfully gathered help to make the Surinamese slave registers available to the general public. The registers provide a shocking insight into the lives of people in slavery. More than 700 people signed up to help scan the documents. The registers will most likely be available for access as of 1 July. It is an excellent example of what is currently called “citizen science”. Coen collected more than 40,000 euros through crowdfunding.
Crowdfunding can be used as a means of funding for other projects, which may have limited public resources available. For example, that is how the children’s book “Een Kroon voor een Kanjer” (A crown for a star) came about. It is a book that encourages children with dyslexia to read. PhD candidate Liesbeth Tilanus provided the scientific basis for this.

Heleen de Coninck was selected as one of the authors to write a report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). She is examining whether it will be a firm requirement that countries across the world dedicate themselves to keeping the increase in temperature within 1.5 degrees of the pre-industrial levels.

At the end of 2017, it was announced that the research into the decline of insect biomass, including contributions from Caspar Hallmann and Hans de Kroon, came in 6th place among the Altmetric Top 100 of 2017. Research into “work organization and mental health problems in PhD students”, which included contributions from Alain de Beuckelaer of Management Sciences, is in 2nd place on the list of the most popular academic papers of 2017, according to alternative calculations by Times Higher Education. That is a unique achievement.

These were just some examples of the intriguing and inspiring education and research that takes place each day on our campus. More examples of our impact on society will follow shortly, when Wilma de Koning presents the Hermesdorf Awards. I would love to be able to name all the things that I have seen over the past few months during my introductory programme as the new president, but unfortunately, time is limited. To say that I am impressed is an understatement.


Even more wonderful things happened in 2017.

In our international news, Radboud University joined The Guild in the autumn of 2016. The Guild is an international network of 18 comprehensive research universities from 12 European countries. Over the past few years, this network has enabled us to exert influence in Brussels, where they are hard at work on the research agendas of the future. We are looking forward to further collaboration with The Guild partners in the fields of education, research, and academic politics.

The first time that I chaired the University Joint Assembly, the entire Executive Board was warmly greeted by this poster.

cvb daltons
It was a fascinating, lively meeting. The University Student Council felt that the Executive Board had involved the participational bodies too late in the distribution of resources that universities receive through the introduction of the loan system. We reached a solution by engaging in proper discussion. In September 2017, discussions were already under way for the 2019 budget. The students are keeping their fingers on the pulse of the Honours Academy, among other things. We have begun constructive discussions on the topic.

We received terrible news this March. What should have been a wonderful ski holiday for the Christian student association Navigators ended in tragedy. A student and an alumnus from Radboud University as well as a student from the HAN University of Applied Sciences passed away during an avalanche in the Alps. As a university, we have tried to support their travelling companions and surviving family as best we can. For example, by receiving the travelling students upon their return and advising them on what to do when contacted by the media. However, the sense of loss and immeasurable sadness remain.

The welfare of our students is deeply important to all of us. Fortunately, our students feel safe on campus. That was the positive news from the well-being survey, which partly emerged as an initiative of the University Student Council. However, more than half of the four thousand respondents also reported regularly feeling stressed. Nearly one in five students miss those they are close to. What is going on and what can students, student organisations, and we as the university do about it? In order to figure it out, we organised a focus group. We expect to have the results of this at the beginning of the year, after which we will identify improvement measures and implement them.

We were on fire in 2017 and, unfortunately, I don’t only mean that in the figurative sense. In February, the NOS published this photo:


I experienced this moment from a unique perspective as the Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Fortunately, no staff members or students were harmed. A day later, everyone was back at work again.

Unfortunately, there was another fire where we weren’t quite so lucky. In October, it was the Grotius building’s turn to take the heat. Even though there were less spectacular images and less media involved, the damage was substantially greater. Grotius was closed for nearly two weeks accompanied by all the expected inconvenience. A great deal of effort went into getting the Grotius building back into proper shape for the Open Days on 3 and 4 November. This was a great success. I would like to extend my compliments to all those involved and to all the staff members and students who made the Open Days a success yet again.

The student council had a long-time wish come true in 2017: a supermarket on the campus. Wilma de Koning (vice president of the executive board) was one of the first customers.

wilma de koning in supermarkt

On 27 October, we opened the renovated Dentistry building, which received the Gulden Feniks (Golden phoenix), an architectural prize for the sustainable use of the existing environment.

The Nijmegen School of Management also made a big move: from Thomas van Aquinostraat to the Elinor Ostrom building, which has the new C theatre hall.

Theaterzaal C

Of course, we are discussing our construction activities with our neighbours. When we modified the construction route for the demolition of Thomas van Aquinostraat at their request, there was applause: from the neighbourhood, from interest groups, and from local politicians. It was a wonderful collaboration.

There was also plenty of applause for many award-winning researchers as well. For example, Jolanda de Vries won the Huibregtsen prize. Three of the eight Ammodo Awards went to Radboud researchers Roshan Cools, Alicia Montoya, and Olivier Hekster.

The last award that I am going to mention is not for one person, but for a team of seven researchers—since scientific work is most often teamwork. They developed the best method for remembering Lithuanian words and it won them the Memprize.
Memory is important for all of us. For this reason, I asked one of them to come here and refresh our memories for 10 minutes. This man is not just anyone, either. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome your Radboud colleague and memory competition world champion: Boris Konrad. (After which foloowed an intermezzo: a short memory training with Boris Konrad.)


Last year, various colleagues had the honour of receiving royal distinctions. Here is a picture of their smiling faces, including the former Executive Board President Gerard Meijer, whose decorations were pinned to him as he bid his farewell.

Ingrid van Engelshoven—a 1989 alumnus who received her Master’s in Policy Science—was appointed as Minister of Education, Culture, and Science by royal decree.

These two ladies joined the ranks of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences this year: Barbara Franke and Heleen Murre-van den Berg. 10 Radboudians became members of the Academica Europaea, which brings the Nijmegen total to 32.

The following people were appointed to administrative positions:

Michiel Kompier became Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences—it’s a great job—and as of 1 January, Piet Hein van Kempen succeeded Steven Bartels as the Dean of the Faculty of Law—also a really great job. I wish them both the best of luck.

Wilma de Koning was once again appointed as a member of the Executive Board by the foundation board. That is great news for our university. I am looking forward to continuing the excellent collaboration within our Executive Board.

When you have an overview this large, you unfortunately have to make choices, so my apologies to anyone who hasn’t been mentioned, but certainly deserves to be.
However, you might see your name amongst the most popular messages on our social media. One of the topics they were covering last year was the Phocas rowing club, which organised the first regatta in Nijmegen history.
The fact that lectures are beginning 15 minutes earlier in the upcoming academic year has generated quite a response. Especially from those who like to sleep in.
The post about law student Mienke de Wilde who, as a Pastafarian, wears a colander on her head for religious reasons, but was not permitted to wear one by the Municipality of Nijmegen in her driving licence photo (she was able to on her university ID), received a great deal of interest as well.

Facts and figures

After the many examples, here are some important general figures for our university. To start, here is an animation we created for when you want to introduce our university in 90 seconds.

Now, here is some of the data in greater detail.

The number of incoming first-year students has increased again. In 2017/2018 roughly 5000 first-year students came to Radboud University, which brought the total to nearly 21,000. This is our first time over 20,000.

In spite of this growth in the number of students, our market share in comparison to other universities over the past few years has declined and, in turn, so has the funding that is based on this market share. Here are the market shares for the Bachelor’s programmes. The market share funding always lags behind the incoming student numbers. Starting in 2016, our incoming students rose above the national average again, which will increase funding.

Blue is the national percentage of incoming first-year students in academic higher education. Red is for pre-university education. Green is public funding for Bachelor’s students. There are more students coming into Radboud University from pre-university education programmes than is the case nationally.

tabel marktaandeel

Here are some figures about international students. These pertain to “degree-seeking students”.

  • Incoming international students were at their peak at Radboud University in 2016-2017, which was largely caused by a significant influx of students to the English-language Psychology Bachelor’s programme (see also the decline in first-year students once the numerus fixus was implemented for this degree programme).
  • 11% of the students at our university are from abroad. The national average of international students in the student population is 16% and Radboud’s market share is 4.6%. This is comparable to the percentages of the Vrije Universiteit and the universities of Tilburg and Twente;
  • At Radboud University, 65% of international students have German nationality.

Over the past few years, the number of PhD graduates has sharply increased. Since 2010, more women have obtained their PhD at Radboud University than men. There were a total of 435 PhD graduations in 2017.

promoties 2017 radboud universiteit

After taking a look at these figures, which give us an idea of the current state of affairs, we have now reached the presentation of the Hermesdorf Awards.

The publication by Hans de Kroon & Casper Hallmann, on the death of large insect populations,  that won the 'general' Hermesdorf Award 2017, was the inspiration for our new year's wish.


What are we going to do in 2018? In the upcoming year, there is a great deal on our university agenda. Allow me to mention a few things.

Strategic Plan

We will be working hard on our new strategic plan, which we aim to have in place by mid-2019. This is sooner than the end of the current strategic plan, which runs until the end of 2020. However, developments are taking place rapidly. Furthermore, a recent inventory has shown that we have already achieved many of the goals from our current strategic plan. We should not allow ourselves to wait too long to put the next steps into action. For instance, think of things such as internationalisation, continued international collaboration and defining ourselves as a university, the language of instruction debate, or the student numbers. What is an actual market share? Where do want to grow or not grow?

For the new strategic plan, we want to take stock of as many ideas and challenges possible inside our university and beyond. In the previous year, we applied a similar strategy when obtaining input for the new leadership vision and the internationalisation vision, both of which will be integrated into the new strategic plan. Various meetings have been planned for 2018. As the Executive Board, we look forward to continuing to develop ideas about the future with all of you.

Well-being and work pressure

Studying and working at our university with pleasure and satisfaction will be an important theme in the upcoming year. Just a few minutes ago, I briefly mentioned the student well-being survey conducted in the previous year. At the end of January, we will be taking a survey of staff members and, via the deans, we have asked all the departments to see what they can do about decreasing the work pressure which staff experience. In March, this will result in a university-wide plan. It often involves finding a good balance between tasks that demand energy and those that replenish it. Together, these determine the job satisfaction which staff experience. In the picture, you see a demonstration by the VAWO (science trade union) during the opening of our academic year.

vawo actie tegen werkdruk

The most important asset that a university has is its staff members and students. At the end of the day, it’s not about money, ECs, or buildings—it’s about people. From the student to the restaurant staff member to the president of the foundation board—they are each an important part of our university. The welfare and development of others is something I consider to be a key task for all of us. The role of the supervisor is essential for this.

From Blackboard to Brightspace

It is expected that in the upcoming academic year, we will simultaneously switch to the new digital learning environment, Brightspace, which will replace Blackboard, our current system. There are sure to be some growing pains along the way, but we will do everything we can to make the transition as smooth as possible. Currently, Brightspace is successfully being used in Delft and has been selected as the platform in Leiden, just like in Nijmegen. User-friendliness played an important role in this choice.

Research data management

Starting in May 2018, new legislation will set additional requirements regarding the storage of privacy-sensitive data. Fortunately, both Radboud university medical center and the university itself have developed systems with which researchers can meet these requirements. These have the significant advantage of enabling data to be retained for future research as well. In principle, we would like all data collected at our university to be stored according to the FAIR principle by 2020: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable.

Nijmegen Green Capital

Nijmegen is this year's Green Capital. Of course, Radboud university medical center and the university itself will be participating. Our sustainability agendas show just how passionate we are about it. Despite the increased operation hours and higher number of students, the university aims to achieve an absolute energy savings of two percent each year. We do not sell unused emission rights. We are trying to collect waste separately wherever we can.

We were considering serving insects for lunch due to sustainability considerations, but now that we know it’s not going so well for them, we’ve retired the idea. However, you’ll soon have the opportunity to try recycled tomato soup from our sustainable vegetarian lunch.


In closing, I would like to refer back to the something I said during last year’s Dies Natalis. I was talking about quality and confidence. The fact that the quality at our university is in good shape is something I hope is evident from everything you’ve seen and heard in the past hour.

What I wish for all of us in the coming year is confidence. Confidence from our government in the quality of Dutch universities and the importance of curiosity-driven research without short-term yields. The light bulb was not discovered while conducting more research into the candle. Confidence from lecturers in their students. Students don’t just come here to earn credits. They come here to learn, make mistakes, get good feedback, and learn from it all over again. Confidence from students in their lecturers. Lecturers are not here to make students’ lives difficult. They are here to help students and stimulate the learning process.

Give yourself and others room to experiment in 2018, to make mistakes and to learn from them—don’t worry about getting everything right on the first try.

Master Yoda (who is not a Radboud alumnus to my knowledge) says the following in “The Last Jedi”: Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.”

Learning from failure is possible in a safe environment in which we approach each other with mutual confidence. This is related to “The art of disagreeing”, which Radboud alumnus Frans Timmermans discussed during the first Frans Timmermans lecture at our university. Even when we don’t agree with each other, it is beneficial to show mutual respect and confidence. I wish us all many disagreements and failures in the upcoming year. May we learn from them.

Master Yoda (voor zover ik weet geen Radboud alumnus) zegt het als volgt in The Last Jedi: 'Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is.'

Learning from failure is possible in a safe environment in which we approach each other with mutual confidence. This is related to “The art of disagreeing”, which Radboud alumnus Frans Timmermans discussed during the first Frans Timmermans lecture at our university. Even when we don’t agree with each other, it is beneficial to show mutual respect and confidence. I wish us all many disagreements and failures in the upcoming year. May we learn from them.

After this, rector magnificus Han van Krieken took over and said some words about the celebration of Radboud University's 95th anniversary this year.