Opening Academic Year 2020

Start Kuyper Year

The 2020-2021 academic year was opened with the opening speech by Mirjam van Praag, President of the Executive Board.Further guests were Marry de Gaay Fortman, lawyer and commissioner of large companies and bestselling author and behavioral scientist Ben Tiggelaar.


For the first time ever, we have launched the academic year at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam online. This is a very special year because VU Amsterdam is celebrating its 140th anniversary. The Opening of the Academic Year (OAJ) also marks the start of the celebratory Kuyper Year, in which VU Amsterdam is organizing a host of events inspired by its founder Abraham Kuyper - a man whose initiatives can still provide inspiration for more democracy, more diversity and more social entrepreneurship.During the OAJ, social entrepreneurship will take centre stage.

Social entrepreneurship at VU Amsterdam
In the year when VU Amsterdam blows out 140 candles, the world was hit by coronavirus. As numerous businesses attempt to weather the storm, many people are also emerging as social entrepreneurs. They are coming up with initiatives to help each other, and their value for society is at least as important as their financial value.

In this economic downturn, the VU Amsterdam community is also buzzing with innovative ideas worthy of an entrepreneurial approach. This entrepreneurial approach to ideas is set to make an important difference. More than ever before, VU Amsterdam aims to be an incubator for start-ups. Where its founder Abraham Kuyper once used crowdfunding to launch the VU enterprise, entrepreneurial students, staff and alumni are now capable of achieving much more! 

Findest_Darine el Houfi 
VU alumni Vincent Franken (28) and Roel Boekel (27), founders of Findest and Darine el Houfi, director of the foundation Leren voor de Toekomst

At the opening some inspirational examples were shown of entrepreneurs changing the world for the better. Their initiatives range from a search engine that uses artificial intelligence to rapidly find technologies that offer companies solutions to their problems, to a homework institute for less well-off school students. VU Amsterdam President of the Executive Board Mirjam van Praag, management guru Ben Tiggelaar and female corporate leader Marry de Gaay Fortman discussed the outstanding entrepreneurship embodied by these initiatives.

Marry de Gaay Fortman
Former chair of the Topvrouwen foundation Marry de Gaay Fortman is a corporate leader who’s dedicated to promoting women to executive-level positions. Marry is a partner at the Houthoff law firm and supervisory board member at De Nederlandsche Bank and KLM, among others. In 2018 Marry was voted most influential woman in business by news magazine OPZIJ.
Tiggelaar, Ben

Best-selling author and behavioural scientist Ben Tiggelaar is well known for his books and lectures offering insight and inspiration on leadership and change. Ben obtained his PhD from VU Amsterdam on behavioural change in organizations, is a visiting professor at the IE Business School in Madrid and has guest-lectured at various universities. He is one of the Netherlands’ most sought-after speakers, both at home and abroad, and also publishes a weekly column on work and management in NRC Handelsblad. 

Photo: Elisabeth Ismail

Praag, Mirjam van
Mirjam van Praag has been president of VU Amsterdam’s Executive Board since 1 March 2018. Alongside the rector magnificus and vice president, she is responsible for the university’s daily management. Mirjam’s scientific research examines the economic role and significance of entrepreneurship. Among other things, she is the founder of the Amsterdam Centre for Entrepreneurship, which provides assistance to startups and scale-ups.

Kuyper Challenge 
We also have launched the Kuyper Challenge. Students and recent graduates’ best ideas for start-ups will be rewarded with coaching and financial support in the next academic year. Sign up for the Kuyper Challenge, and you and your start-up idea might take home the very first Kuyper Award!

Kuyper Year
The Opening of the Academic Year marks the start of Kuyper Year, in which VU Amsterdam will celebrate its 140th anniversary with a host of activities and themes that are characteristic of the university and Abraham Kuyper himself: democracy, diversity and social entrepreneurship. You are also warmly invited to take part in the other anniversary activities in the 2020-2021 academic year, details of which you will find at