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The University of Amsterdam celebrated its 385th Dies Natalis (UvA's birthday) on Monday, 9 January. A key part of the Dies ceremony involved the departure of outgoing UvA rector magnificus Professor Dymph van den Boom and the transfer of the rectorship to Professor Karen Maex. In both their speeches, Van den Boom and Maex focused on the future of the university.

Professors making the way from the Aula to the Maagdenhuis on the University's bithday.
Credits: Dirk Gillissen
Dymph van den Boom receives the royal honour (credits: Monique Kooijmans).

In her farewell speech, Van den Boom dealt with the challenges facing the university in the 21st century and the associated consequences for teaching and research. Van den Boom argued that bold choices will need to be made in order to cope effectively and presented a number of options that could lead to such choices. But is the modern university able to change?

Next up was Jet Bussemaker, the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science, who dedicated her address to Van den Boom.

Following the official transfer of the rectorship, Maex then delivered her inaugural speech as rector magnificus. In this Dies speech, entitled The Unconventional Future, she discussed the position of the university in tomorrow's world. Is scholarship adequately equipped for the future, or is the academic system running up against its own limits? Maex responded to these questions by addressing three issues: the repositioning of research and education, the consequences for research strategy, and the limits of the existing academic system. Special attention was paid to the UvA’s mandate as university, its raison d'etre and – from that perspective – the autonomy of scholarship.

Honorary doctorates

Following the Dies speech, honorary doctorates were awarded to international refugee law expert James Hathaway, cultural sociologist Michèle Lamont and AIDS advocate Peter van Rooijen. Hathaway received an honorary doctorate for his original and influential contribution to the development of international refugee law and its practical application. Lamont was recognised for her contribution to the social sciences, particularly cultural sociology, and her important role in linking American and European social sciences. Van Rooijen received the special accolade for his achievements in the national and international fight against AIDS and his commitment to better international healthcare. 

For a short impression of each honorary doctor, please see the promotional videos below.

Good lectureship

In closing, the floor was given to UvA student Henriëtte Hoogervorst on behalf of the organisation of the Lecturer of the Year Award. Her speech, entitled Hart voor onderwijs ('A Heart for Education'), focused on good lectureship and appreciation for lecturers.

The Dies Natalis marks the start of the 2017 anniversary celebrations: the UvA turns 385 in 2017.


The Dies Natalis formed the start of the UvA’s 2017 lustrum celebration, in which it celebrates its 385th anniversary. The theme of the UvA’s 77th lustrum is ‘Inspiring Generations’, which refers to the past, present and future of the university.