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The central theme of the 2018-2019 opening of the academic year was the relationship between the University of Amsterdam and the city. This was highlighted in a number of forms, including five short films made by students from the Master’s in Journalism and Media.

Copyright: Dreamstime

A special booklet was also made, illustrating how the UvA and the city of Amsterdam belong together. In this film you can see how the booklet, titled 'The University and Amsterdam', was handed to the Mayor, Femke Halsema:

The university and city belong together

In her speech President of the Executive Board Geert ten Dam emphasised the bond between the university and city of Amsterdam. ‘In the past decades the relationship between the UvA and the city has become a little more distant, and that’s a shame’, Ten Dam pointed out. There are a number of reasons for this widening distance. One is the growing emphasis on performance indicators for the funding of education and research. Then there’s the pressure on study progress and success rates as a goal in itself, which means students have less time to spend on activities outside their degree. And, finally, due to the growing internationalisation of the academic world, the UvA’s focus has become more international too.

Geert van Dam at the 2018-2019 opening of the academic year
Photo by Dirk Gillissen

Ten Dam therefore made the case for a renewed social contract between the city and university, and for a close working relationship that revolves around research and education and engages with society. The thinking power of all our academic disciplines helps Amsterdam to formulate an answer to big questions regarding housing, mobility, sustainability, radicalisation and labour participation for all its inhabitants.

Finally, Ten Dam highlighter the initiative aimed at establishing a knowledge centre focusing on Inequality in the City. This initiative is included in the coalition agreement of the City of Amsterdam. Various disciplines will join forces in this centre to map out and study smart policy interventions. 

Jozias van Aartsen at the 2018-2019 opening of the academic year
Photo by Dirk Gillissen

Proactive advice

In his speech former minister and former mayor Jozias van Aartsen stressed the importance and added value of science, especially at moments when politicians and policymakers aren’t quite ready for it yet. ‘In these times of fact-free politics and fake news it is important that knowledge institutes play a role in policymaking. That academia doesn’t wait until it is asked to give advice, but voices its advice proactively, and does so loud and clear’.

Photo by Dirk Gillissen

Hybrid intelligence

To conclude, Geert ten Dam introduced Maarten de Rijke as the new University Professor of AI in Information Retrieval. Another three University Professors in the field of AI will be appointed: AI and Medical Imaging (affiliated with the AMC), Humanities and AI (affiliated with the Faculty of Humanities) and Law and Technology with a special emphasis on AI (affiliated with the Faculty of Law). De Rijke’s presentation focused on how AI can help the city make complex decisions in a number of key challenges relating to logistics, climate change and health. He concluded his presentation by calling for a national AI agenda.