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A bird’s eye view of our history

Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences was founded 1 January 1988 with the merging of nineteen Boards of educational institutes in Rotterdam, Delft and Dordrecht. This was the start of a school for higher education in Rotterdam and the surrounding area. At that time the school had nearly 12,500 students and 1,500 employees making it the largest school of higher education in The Netherlands.

The merger resulted in an organisation that was divided into four faculties.

  • ·         The Faculty of Educational Programmes included the former pabo schools, (secondary teacher training) in Rotterdam and Dordrecht, the school of Teacher Training in Delft, de Nutsacademie and part-time teacher training programmes in Rotterdam and the province of Zeeland.
  • ·         The Faculty of Visual Arts and Architecture included those two academies.
  • ·         The Polytechnics Faculty included the higher technical school of Dordrecht and two programmes for laboratory training in Rotterdam and Delft, the Academy for Nautical Training and the school of higher education for Maritime Mechanical Engineering.
  • ·         The Faculty of Health, Labour Relations and Health Care consisted of the Social Academy, the higher education school of Youth Welfare, and Nursing, the Academy of Physical Therapy and schooling for Speech Therapy.

The objectives and basis of the new school for higher education were ambitious. The institute was aiming to be publicly accepted and recognised in the region of Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Delft.

When the school of higher education was created the study programmes were spread over 27 locations in Rotterdam, Delft and the province of Zeeland. Even the cities of Eindhoven, Arnhem and Middelburg held classes. To keep using all these locations was too expensive. The number of campuses needed to be reduced. As far back as the very first plans for possible locations, the ideal scenario was to concentrate on the location of the Rotterdam east to west metro line,  so that all buildings would be easily accessible. The locations that the school would focus on were the Unilever building at Museumplein, Blaak and Overblaak, Wijnhaven and Academieplein.

At first results were not encouraging. A large number of students were leaving their study programmes without a diploma and often in a very late stage of their studies. In the first five years of operation, the school lost the previous market share in comparison with national results. 


Rotterdam as a source of inspiration

Many of the difficulties that Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences was dealing with in the first few years would result in a change of course. The faculties ceased to exist and in their place came clusters of study programmes, that were managed by the Executive Board. The general board would later become the Advisory Board, while the competent authority and final responsibility lay in the hands of the Executive Board. Jasper Tuytel became Chairman of the Executive Board in February 1996.

In the following period, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences changed from a fairly dull and introverted institute to a school of higher education involved in society with a unique view on education. One of the fundamental changes resulting in this metamorphosis of the school was a sound financial structure. After that was in order, education could be improved upon.

One of the legacies the school struggled with was a lack of identity and character. If the school wanted to strengthen that position, the school would need an 'image'. One important step was the memorandum 'Denken en doen', (thinking and doing) from 1999; it was the forerunner of the Rotterdam Education Model. The city of Rotterdam was a definite choice. In the first instance this meant the physical location of the school, with the exception of the pabo Dordrecht all other locations were excluded. Any mention of the region was scratched. The school continued on as Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

The city of Rotterdam became a source for the content of the educational programmes. The city has distinct problems. Most of the school's students are part of the population of the city. This reservoir had for a long time been known for a fairly low level of study results, the lowest of the four main cities in the Netherlands. An issue closely linked to this is the increase of underprivileged population groups, especially of non-western immigrant groups.

The minimally trained working population was juxtaposed with the high-quality, knowledge economy. Many highly schooled professionals left Rotterdam for another location in the region. The consequence was that even in times of low economic activity some sectors in Rotterdam had difficulty filling vacancies at higher levels. This shortage in the job market would only increase in the future. Social cohesion in the city was weak. Rotterdam was familiar with a relatively great influx of underprivileged population groups. This caused cultural, societal and social tension in certain areas of the city.

Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences has the ambition to contribute to solving such problems, and to contributing to improving the appeal of the city of Rotterdam. Spearheads of the policy programme of the municipality of Rotterdam needed to also be a focus for Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Merger with HES

One development that was also decisive in the future of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, was the merger with HES, the School of Higher Economic Studies. HES was founded in 1966 as the first school in the Netherlands for Higher Economic and Administrative Education (HEAO). The school was founded by the industry in Rotterdam. It started with 23 students and a few part-time lecturers and was located in a few classrooms of Brandaris in Rotterdam Schiebroek. During the eighties the school grew enormously and the number of students rose from about one thousand to nearly four thousand. This growth stagnated after 1993. Measures were taken to make the school more attractive. Starting in the period of 1997-1998 the school offered all first-year full-time students job security, which firmly established the position of the school.

At first instance HES seemed to be heading in the right direction with these measures, but after interference in competition was ceased by the government, it went downhill. It dawned on the school that viability as a single sector institute could no longer be guaranteed in the long term. In 2002 HES merged with Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. The trade name HES was kept, and with this chosen construction the uniqueness and independence of HES was respected.

The merger with HES started a period in which form, content, organisation of education and commitment to society, with the city of Rotterdam as inspiration, were integrated and known as the Rotterdam Education Model. Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences wanted to differentiate from other schools of higher education by placing education in the centre of the Rotterdam community, for that community.

Exceed expectations

Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences has made the choice to commit to the expanding city of Rotterdam. Society has not stopped developing, and neither has the city. More and more potential students find their way to Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. Often these are kids of immigrant parents, the first generation of families in this country to enrol at a school of higher education. This asked for a different approach, because this new generation of students was less prepared at home for independent study. Therefore, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences presented a new and finely tuned policy. Using the motto 'Exceed Expectations' the school wanted to challenge all youth to achieve the maximum result during their studies, including the disadvantaged group. The project 'Study Success for Everyone' and stimulating education by means of the Rotterdam Education Model needed to make this ambition possible. In addition the role of the school as an institute of higher education for this region was given more emphasis. The clusters were divided into eleven institutes to better connect education, research and contract education. Although the institutes were given some freedom to develop, the school ensured that unity of school policies would be kept intact.

The services functioned at the centre of the school, to prevent fragmentation of energy and stagnation of information flows.



In September 2012 Ron Bormans was appointed Chairman of the Executive Board of Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. His role in the organisation and his observations led to a thorough analysis of the state and current situation of the school. The most important conclusions were presented in his Focus programme. The shortest summary of which is that the school was doing well, but was still not doing everything well all the time.

The connection with Rotterdam was a good choice. Because of this education and research were better connected to the city, and a hefty investment was made in reaching the youth of Rotterdam and keeping them in school. Investment in the quality of lecturers was also on the rise.

But the school still did not achieve enough. The school continued to focus on the wide and diverse, student population, as is the city of Rotterdam, but the quality of education needed to improve across the board. For that reason the Focus programme turned the school's complete attention to the quality of our Bachelor education. The intrinsic bond between students and lecturers needed to be stronger to increase Study Success, and education needed to profit more from applied research.

The Focus programme started another way of working and thinking within the school. Guidelines placing more responsibility with lecturer teams and a supporting role of management, services and staff.