A Broader Mind

Is the world changing or are you changing the world?

Voor de Nederlandse pagina, klik hier.

Register for the A Broader Mind Course 2020

The last option to sign up for this course is on January 28 and 29, 2020.

A Broader Mind is a new course aimed to inspire bachelor's students studying at the VU to use their fields’ of study to better the world around them. During this English-taught course, you will collaborate with students from different programmes of study on multidisciplinary themes.

The total course takes about 40 hours, or about 3 hours per week. This course is not for credit, however does earn you a certificate to allow you to confirm to future employers (if you choose to note it on your CV) that you completed the course. Unlike other courses, A Broader Mind is designed to develop yourself, both personally and academically, to allow you to look further than your own study programme, and to demonstrate your ability to collaborate with students who are different from you.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam wants to offer its students the opportunity to develop more broadly, from an academic, personal and social perspective: to equip students to be successful and play a meaningful part in this world. This requires students to think about who they are, how they view the world, their role in society, and how they relate to others.

On A Broader Mind, students learn to approach societal issues from a range of academic perspectives. They will apply their knowledge to solving pressing social issues through Community Service Learning and acquire personal skills such as collaborating across borders. 

Why the shaping of students on academic, personal and societal level should have a natural place in education. 

As Mirjam van Praag, the President of the Executive Board, said at the opening of the 2018 academic year: We don’t want our students to simply ‘become something’ – we also want them to ‘become someone’.

As the challenges facing society become more numerous and more complex, the need for a more multidisciplinary approach becomes greater. Themes such as artificial intelligence, ageing, geopolitical tensions, climate change, shortage of natural resources and the unequal distribution of wealth are all having an impact on our world today and will continue to do so tomorrow.

De wereld verandert

At the same time, the labour market is changing dramatically, the working landscape is shifting and knowledge is becoming less sustainable. Opportunities for education are multiplying and today’s students are far more likely to have a career that encompasses a whole range of jobs and disciplines. Despite these developments, government policy is geared towards encouraging students to focus on their own discipline and to graduate without delay. There is hardly any scope for students to broaden their interests or to study subjects in greater depth, let alone to reflect on their own role in society.

Society is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Now more than ever, it is essential to develop your skills, knowledge and personal qualities in ways that go beyond the boundaries of your own discipline. Broadening your mind means that you are better equipped to meet the challenges of the future. As a student, this requires you to think about who you are, how you look at the world, how you relate to others and the nature of your role in society.

You will develop personal skills such as collaborating across borders, debating openly and effectively, reflecting on your own perspectives, norms and values, and dealing with pressure and stress. In addition, through Community Service Learning, you will apply your knowledge to solving pressing issues that are having a major impact on today’s society.

There are two elements to participating in A Broader Mind:

  • Community Service Learning: a form of education in which you will put professional knowledge into practice. In doing so, you will make your own contribution to solving societal issues.
  • A Broader Mind course: you will work with students from other Bachelor’s degree programmes to develop your societal and personal skills.

In addition, VU Amsterdam is conducting longitudinal research to measure the effects of the A Broader Mind course on students and alumni in the long term. You can participate voluntarily in this study and you will receive an annual survey with questions about your personality, student life, your view of the world and your expectations for the future on the labor market.

Are you curious about the Course? Click here or scan the QR-code to get a sneak preview! 


To enter the sneak preview you have to fill-in your e-mail address. Select "I am a new user" and then fill-in your name. Your mail address will not be used or distributed by the VU Amsterdam. 

    The A Broader Mind course is for all Bachelor’s students at VU Amsterdam, and centres on personal development, societal interaction and reflection on these processes. As a student, you will be encouraged to get to grips with major societal issues, such as sustainability, digitization and poverty. These are issues that cannot be solved from the perspective of a single discipline. That’s why the course brings you into contact with a wide range of perspectives held by both experts and fellow students. It will take you on a journey as you discover what these interdisciplinary themes mean to you and how you can draw on your own background and personal convictions in order to make your own contribution.

    The course has been designed jointly by students, lecturers, researchers and other enthusiastic members of staff at VU Amsterdam: that’s what makes it so special. It gives you a genuine and active role in designing and improving your own education. For example, the themes you will tackle on the course were co-written by VU students.

    The A Broader Mind course consists of a blend of online and offline activities. In the MOOC, you will watch videos and read articles in which experts present their ideas and insights. You will take part in quizzes and enter into forum discussions with other VU students. In addition, the MOOC will encourage you to undertake activities independently with a view to exploring your own personal response to the issues in question. This might include collecting your own plastic waste to make an artwork with other students, as part of the Sustainability theme.

    05-03-2019 - Students exchanged 'poverty experience' in Low budget dinner

    Within the theme 'Poverty' students participated in a five-day challenge to live on a minimum of €4,29 a day. At the end of the week they came together and had a low-budget community meal organised at the VU. We obtained waste food from a variety of supermarkets to cook this meal. During this dinner the students reflected at their own experiences and shared them with each other.

    Eight themes are discussed on the A Broader Mind course. You will collaborate with students from other degree programmes and learn to approach the themes from a range of disciplines. The starting point for tackling each theme will be your own personal question and a challenge facing society.

    Track A
    Track B
    Success & Failure
    Societal challenge: Can we break the societal taboo on failure?
    Personal question: How can I achieve success by learning from my failures?
    Viewpoints and Worldview
    Societal challenge: (How) can our different rules of life go together?
    Personal question: What rules of life do you (want to) follow?
    Societal challenge: What can society do to reduce poverty?
    Personal question: Do I unintentionally perpetuate poverty?
    Health & Happiness
    Societal challenge: How can we help create a happier place for others around us?
    Personal question: How can I improve my own happiness?
    The Human Body
    Societal challenge: What are the (moral) limits to biotechnical applications for human health?
    Personal question: Will I modify my body in the future?
    The Digital World
    Societal challenge: How is society influenced positively and negatively by digital innovation?
    Personal question: How do I weigh up the ethical benefits and the risks of digital innovation?
    Societal challenge: To what extent does society need rebellion?
    Personal question: Wat kind of rebel am I?
    Societal challenge: Join the quest and help solve the plastic waste problem!
    Personal question: How big a part do I play in causing, identifying and solving the plastic problem?

    Are you interested in A Broader Mind, but is it not possible to enter the Course? We are always looking for students and teachers for our building teams!

    If you have any questions about the A Broader Mind Course, or if you want to join the course, please send an e-mail to: [email protected]


    Govert Buijs

    The A Broader Mind course is led by Govert Buijs, Professor of Political Philosophy and holder of the Goldschmeding Chair in Economics and Civil Society at the Faculty of Humanities.
    [email protected]- +31 (0)20 598 66 83


    If you have any general questions about A Broader Mind, please contact the programme team:

    Het programmateamKirstin de Boer
    [email protected]
    +31 (0)20 598 76 05

    Nynke Rodenhuis
    [email protected]
    +31 (0)20 598 63 12

    Do you like to be creative? Do you like to collaborate with people from different backgrounds? Do you like to contribute to the innovation of education? Then this vacancy is perfect for you!


    We are always looking for students, teachers and VU staff members who like to build the Course and want to help us develop and improve it. 


    • Contribute to the development of a new curriculum 
    • Work together with members of a building team
    • You will expand your network.
    • You have freedom to be creative
    • You will be part of the A Broader Mind community

    JOIN IN!
    If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected]

    New project leader 'A Broader Mind for business' (14-03-2019)

    As of April the 1th the new part A Broader Mind for business will start. VU Amsterdam wants to use A Broader Mind for Business to build bridges to Zuidas by initiating a programme touching the need for personal development as a theme. The project leader will play a leading role in building these bridges and create a strategy to connect to potential partners and collaberate with them within this new programme. The appointed project leader is Marie Louise Voors and will be managed by the Institutional affairs department of the VU.

    Do you want to read more about the programme parts of A Broader Mind? Read the pitch.


    Wednesday 5 February: Kick-off Event A Broader Mind Course
    Not long now! The A Broader Mind course will soon be underway. This year 300 students have enrolled. 

    Always wondered what this unique course involves? A course in which students from all faculties come together to face personal, academic and social challenges? Is it just the world that’s changing? Or are they going to change the world?

    Come to the kick-off event!


    18:00 – 18:10Opening and Welcome by Student Presenters: Fabienne van Rossenberg & Nouri Mabrouk
    18:10 – 18:30Intermezzo: Jochem Nooyen, illusionist
    18:30 – 18:40Introduction of  A Broader Mind Course themes:
    - Jamie Fehribach, chair Poverty (Track A) &
    - Kas Houthuijs, chair Health & Happiness (Track B)
    - Maida Ammiwala, chair Viewpoints & Worldview (Track B)
    18:40 – 18:50Presentation: Thijs Biersteker, ecological artist
    18:50 – 19:00Vinod Subramaniam, Rector Magnificus VU: Official Launch

    Building team meeting A Broader Mind Course
    We are always looking for enthusiastic students, teachers and employees of the VU who want to help build the Course and help us further develop and improve it. Do you want to help us? Then come to the building meetings. Is A Broader Mind new to you? You will receive more information about the project during the introduction meeting. You can register for one of the two components or for both via the link with the various dates.

    November 12, 2019

    16.00 - 17.00 Introduction 'A Broader Mind Course' for people who are interested (in HG-02A36)
    17.00 - 19.00 Building team meeting (in HG-02A36)

    Sign in now, click here.