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Former students, researchers and donors will join each other for lectures and debates at the interface between the academic world and society at the University Day on 28 May.

Are we our brains? Have political developments in North Africa and the Middle East started a true revolution? What will higher education be like in the future? Are the cyber cowboys at WikiLeaks heroes or just a hype?

These and other questions will be topics of discussion at the University Day of the University of Amsterdam (UvA) on 28 May. Former students, researchers and donors will join each other for lectures and debates at the interface between the academic world and society.

For the tenth consecutive year, the UvA will host University Day. On Saturday morning, Karel van der Toorn, president of the Executive Board, will officially open the day’s events at the Aula. Following that, Emeritus Professor in Neurobiology Dick Swaab will give an address under the same title as his much-discussed book: We are our brain? Swaab argues that by the time we become adults, very little can still change in our brains. Our individual characteristics have already been fixed. It is not the environment, but instead our genetic background and early brain development that determine our own ‘internal limitations’. In that sense, we are not free to decide to change our gender identity, sexual orientation, aggressiveness, character, religion or native language. During his address, Swaab will talk more about the consequences of his contemporary vision for healthcare, parenting, politics and justice.

Knowledge festival

Traditionally, the University Day ‘knowledge festival’ (kennisfestival), which consists of lectures and debates, is the main draw . This takes place at the Oudmanhuispoort in the afternoon. This year, researchers and journalists will tackle the question of how WikiLeaks relates to traditional journalism in the debate ‘WikiLeaks: between hero & hype’. Another lecture titled ‘On the road to democracy in North Africa’ will address the question of whether the current political developments in North Africa and the Middle East will lead to democracy in the Arab world or will they just be replaced by new repressive regimes. In addition, there will also be lectures and debates on other subjects such as the medicalisation of pregnancy and births, the resilience of our democracy, the ‘forgotten’ Humanities, Amsterdam as the breeding ground for the cultural industry, Dutch refugee law, disaster planning for hospitals, and the treatment of anxiety.

In a special edition of Room for Discussion, the discussion programme run by the economics faculty, the main topic will be the future of higher education. With the threat posed by proposed changes in government policy, the question is how the UvA will deal with this situation. During the PhD marathon, PhD candidates will each have seven minutes to describe the essence of their thesis. In addition to that, comedians Joep van Deudekom and Rob Urgert will host an interactive quiz about the science behind success.

Alongside events at the Oudemanhuispoort, there will also be activities at the Science Park including a special parent-child programme with children’s stories and workshops on varying subjects.

Closing ceremony

During the closing ceremony at the end of the day, the UvA Thesis Competition 2011 will be handed out for the best academic achievements of the past year. Rector Magnificus Dymph van den Boom will conclude the day with a closing speech, and in the evening, the UvA Orchestra J. Pzn Sweelinck will perform a concert in the Dominicus church.

Time and location

Saturday, 28 May 10:30-22:30

Morning programme: Aula van de UvA, Singel 411, Amsterdam
Afternoon programme: Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, Amsterdam
Evening programme: Dominicus church, Spuistraat 12, Amsterdam