A Broader Mind

Is the world changing or are you changing the world?

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What is A Broader Mind for students?

At Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam we want our students not only to become ‘something’ like an economist, doctor or biologist. We also want them to become ‘someone. In our view, personal development, academic exploration and societal development are an essential part of the academic education. We want 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 and their role in society, and how they relate to others. It requires them to have ‘A Broad Mind’.

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

Want to know more? 

With the A Broader Mind programme we fulfil the mission of the VU Amsterdam
“We take responsibility for people and the planet by delivering value driven education, research and knowledge transfer. We imbue students and professionals with knowledge and ‘A Broader Mind’. We pursue pioneering research, both within and across disciplines. As free thinkers with a focus on diversity, purpose and compassion, our students and staff have a deep connection with one another while being fully engaged with society as a whole. This is Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s mission”.

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.

Marjolein Zweekhorst
Professor Innovatie and Education, Faculty of Science
[email protected]
Marjolein Zweekhorst

Another pillar of the A Broader Mind for Students Programme, is the ‘A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey’ (ABMLS). It is designed to track the personal, academic, civic and professional development of students as they progress through their degree programmes, especially in ABM-activities (CSL and the course). The survey is unique since it is one of the first to assess the impact of these kind of activities in Europe and thus far, a longitudinal panel study based on a design like the A Broader Mind Programme, has not been carried out.

The A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey (ABMLS) is a panel survey among students at the VU Amsterdam. It is an innovative survey in which it tracks student development for multiple years in a mixed-method design, combining different types of data. Results are shared with students and researches from VU Amsterdam to make it a collaborative project.

The A Broader Mind Longitudinal Survey report >

René Bekkers
Professor Prosocial Behavior, Faculty of Social Sciences
[email protected]

The A Broader Mind course is an interdisciplinary course which focuses on the personal development, academic exploration and involvement with complex social challenges like poverty, sustainability and the digital world. In a mixed group of students from all VU faculties, students are involved in challenging online and offline activities.

The course was developed by enthusiastic students and staff members of the VU. Together they built the future of education. The course consists of eight theme’s, linked to the Sustainable Development Goals and reflecting the academic knowledge and societal awareness within the VU.

Pramod George Jose
Computer Science

'We have students who are all from different cultural backgrounds, everyone has a different experience of their life - When everyone interacts they’ll be able to learn quite a lot.'
Diana Lucía Gross Gross
Social Psychology

'You don’t have that many opportunities to talk to others from different disciplines about societal problems. It was amazing opportunity to listen to other people to reflect on  challenging issues and try to find a way to solve them. That’s why I joined!'
Eduardo Urias
Postdoc and lecturer Athena Institute

'In the end we all work in a place with people from different cultures and backgrounds. And here we learn how to perform in such a diverse environment.’
Asger Randers Anderton
Social and cultural anthropology

‘I’m in a very international place and I’m learning to work with different types of people and I learn much about myself. I Think that’s very important and very interesting.’ 
Shivam Kapoor
Computer Systems Security

‘I think that this course is a good platform for everyone to learn, discuss, to do interdisciplinary research and collaborate with everyone.’

Govert Buijs
Professor Faculty of Humanities and holder of the Goldschmeding Chair 'Economy & Civil Society'
[email protected]
Govert Buijs
Selene Kolman
Project manager A Broader Mind Course
[email protected]
+312 5984396

The A Broader Mind course is built around eight societal theme’s. Students collaborate with students from other degree programmes and learn to approach the themes from multiple academic disciplines. The starting point for tackling each theme is a personal question and a challenge facing society.

Personal questionSocietal questionPowered by
Track A
Success & Failure Success“How can I achieve success by learning from my failures?”“Can we break the societal taboo on failure?”School of Business and Economics
Poverty Poverty"Do I unintentionally perpetuate poverty?""What can society do to reduce poverty?"Social Sciences
Human Body Human"Will I modify my body in the future?""What are the (moral) limits to biotechnical applications for human health?"Law
Rebellion Rebellion"What kind of rebel am I?""To what extent does society need Rebellion?"Humanities
Track B
Viewpoints & Worldview Viewpoints"What is my worldview, and what can I do to broaden my perspective?""How can I live with people who have different and conflicting worldviews?"Religion and Theology
Health & Happiness Health"How can I improve my own happiness?""How can we help create a happier place for others around us?"Medicine/Dentistry/ACTA
Digital World digital world"How do I weigh up the ethical benefits and risks of digital innovation?""How is society influenced positively and negatively by digital innovation?"Behavioural and Movement Sciences
Sustainability Sustain"What is my role in causing, identifying and solving the plastic problem?""Join the quest and help to solve the plastic waste problem!"Science

Open to all VU Amsterdam Bachelor students (1st – 3rd year)
interdisciplinaryInterdisciplinary with a mix of challenging on- and off line activities
periodPeriod 4 and 5 with the exception of regular exam weeks
6 offline meet-ups on Tuesdays OR Wednesdays between 17:30-20:00 hrs
Study load: approximately 40 hours (± 3hrs/week). Online activities can be completed in your own time
trackTrack A: Success & Failure, Poverty, Human Body, Rebellion
Track B: Viewpoints & Worldview, Health & Happiness, Digital World, Sustainability
certificateUpon successful completion you will receive a certificate
Sign up through this website in December
More information about will follow on this website. For questions feel free to contact us via [email protected]
Imagine it. Build it. Change it.

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam challenges you to design your own educational programme. Together with a diverse group of students and lecturers from all faculties, you will strengthen your substantive, creative, entrepreneurial and organizational abilities by helping us build the A Broader Mind Course. You can participate in the building process in two different ways:
  • Join the A Broader Mind review team (Light). In monthly development sessions – approximately 1½ hours once a month in September, October and November 2020 – you will provide feedback on the course content and generate ideas to help us improve the course.
  • Join the A Broader Mind building team (Substantive). Become a course developer working with a committed team on the further development of one of the A Broader Mind themes. Under the guidance of an expert chairperson, you and your teammates will give shape to one of the ABM themes: Success & Failure, Health & Happiness, Viewpoints & Worldviews, Sustainability, Human Body, Poverty, Rebellion and Digital World. You will come together for a number of team meetings to brainstorm on new ideas, write the assignments and create new course material. In addition to participating in the review team development sessions mentioned above (Light), you will also meet with your team members during monthly development sessions from September 2020 till January 2021. You will need to budget about 8 to 10 hours per month. You and your teammates will set the dates, locations and meeting times. Use the form below to register for the information sessions, where you’ll get more information on participating in the building process as either a Light or Substantive team member.
Session 1: Monday, 7 September 2020
17:30 – 18:00 – A Broader Mind Course information session
18:00 – 19:30 – A Broader Mind Course development session (Light)

Session 2: Wednesday, 7 October 2020
17:30 – 18:00 – A Broader Mind Course information session
18:00 – 19:30 – A Broader Mind Course development session (Light)

Session 3: Monday, 26 October 2020
17:30 – 18:00 – A Broader Mind Course information session
18:00 – 19:30 – A Broader Mind Course development session (Light)

Join in!If you have any questions, please send an e-mail to [email protected]

We are looking for enthusiastic senior students to guide a group of students during the A Broader Mind course. You will help students with both online and offline activities, provide feedback and assess the final assignment. You will be given a training course on coaching skills beforehand, and intervision-style trainings have been incorporated into the course to assist you in your role as guide.


  • Coach 24 students
  • Give feedback on the interim assignment after period 4
  • Give feedback on and assess final assignment
  • Check attendance for offline activities
  • Provide guidance for offline activities (e.g. designing an app through Guided Design on the Digital World theme)
  • Supervise online activities, such as online discussions and assignments
  • Contribute to the further development of the ABM course
Nicola, Transnational Legal Studies:
“I have a phobia of everything that is inside the human body. So I had to skip my biology classes!”
“My nick name is ‘Ajax’. Fun fact: I’m doing a study —Societal Resilience— which has six students in total.”
Pramod, MSc Computer Science:
“My nick name is ‘Algorythm’. I am a student of 3 universities at the moment.“

For the Final Assignment students are asked to formulate a personal challenge based on what they have learned from the A Broader Mind course, things that have struck them as intriguing or that have changed their perspective and convert this personal challenge in a creative manner. The way to do is, is entirely free.

Alix Achen & Charlotte Krack
Students Psychology, Behavioural and Movement Sciences

“We want to show you that living sustainable is easy, rewarding and even fun.”

- Blog: Greenguide

Saskia Stam
Student Health Sciences, Science

“I signed up for the Red Cross for the ready2help programme. This means they can call me when there is help needed in my neighbourhood.” 

- Photograph and painted stones: Leave a sparkle wherever you go


Elmar Nijkamp
Economics and Business Economics, School of Business and Economics

“Show them what you feel, pop their bubble and don’t lock your rebel in any room.”

- Poem and video: Rebels locked away in their rooms

In spring 2020 an article by Mirjam van Praag (president of VU Amsterdam) and Nynke Rodenhuis (programme manager A Broader Mind) was published in the TH&MA Higher Education. TH&MA is a magazine which aims to inform managers, administrators and executives in the field of higher education in both Flanders and the Netherlands about the latest trends in higher education.

Read the article here (only available in Dutch)

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:

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

152 A Broader Mind students graduate
The VU is proud of the next generation of A Broader Mind students. We congratulate them. They have set and achieved their goals! Watch the congratulatory video of rector Vinod Subramaniam who spoke to the 152 graduates during the closing A Broader Mind festival on 18 June.


thijs_bierstekerThijs Biersteker becomes first ‘A Broader Mind Fellow’
The climate artist Thijs Biersteker has recently been named as the first VUvereniging A Broader Mind fellow. The fellowship is supported by the VUvereniging. Biersteker challenges students of A Broader Mind to translate their academic knowledge and personal experiences into a socially relevant message through artistic expression. A good example is his film about the impact of one cigarette butt on the environment. This ties in well with the current discussions around the smoke-free VU Campus.

Biersteker's studio (www.wovenstudio.io) is a sustainable art studio that works with scientists and research groups, museums and architects to communicate their scientific findings or data in unusual ways. He translates scientific and/or socially relevant findings into interactive installations which people invite people to touch and move around. Thijs is also one of the founders of the Art, Ethics and Empathy course at TU Delft.