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The College Project: Higher Education in a Turbulent Time


Admission requirements

This global citizenship course is open to 2nd- and 3rd-year students across all majors. An application is required and is due by Sunday 1 August.

Please provide the following:

  • Letter of motivation (max 1 page) where you explain your interest in the course, including the things you hope to learn and the topics you might like to research when it comes to developing our practices at the college.

  • Your CV

  • Your transcript (print screen from Usis is fine)

Submit all documents via email to: Students will be selected based on the strength of their letters and in order to achieve a balanced mix of majors, backgrounds, and interests.


This course will offer students an opportunity to study the history and politics of higher education, while carrying out individual and group research projects aimed at informing pedagogical and institutional practice at LUC.

In the first block, we will undertake an interdisciplinary exploration of the broad question posed by Stephen Collini in his 2012 book, What are universities for? Within this exploration, we will pay particular attention to knotty matters of inequality, access, and social/political reproduction. One aim is to develop a broad understanding of the recent history of the university and the various contests within and around it: from the demographic shifts that reshaped higher education in the post-WWII decades, to the student uprisings of the 1960s and ensuing culture wars of the 1990s, to the more recent dynamics of “academic capitalism,” political polarization, student mental health, and climate change (to name but a few contemporary issues). Along the way, we will remain attentive to how the Dutch university system (including its university colleges) compares to systems in other parts of the world.

Armed with this background knowledge, we will use the second block of the course to attend to our third aim: examining how select patterns in higher education play out at LUC. Both as individuals and in teams, students will carry out research projects about specific issues in higher education, with an eye toward addressing particular puzzles at LUC. We will be building upon research projects that were undertaken in 2019-2020, and so previous student work will form an important basis for our learning.

Course Objectives

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:

  • Speak knowledgeably about the recent history of universities and explain how the Dutch university system (including its university colleges) compares to others.

  • Apply their knowledge of broad currents in higher education to specific challenges at LUC, and to communicate this learning to others in an accessible and persuasive manner—while remaining open to new or contrasting ideas.

  • Critically reflect on their learning about higher education—and constructively engage with people who may have different beliefs, hold different interests, or find themselves positioned differently in LUC’s social and institutional landscape.

  • Propose concrete educational policy suggestions based on the synthesis and analysis of research from multiple academic disciplines, as well on collected journalism, interviews, and government reports.

  • Develop their teamwork skills, as well as their skills in oral and written communication.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course will take place in person, although we may have some online sessions for visiting speakers and for research team meetings. In Block 1, the course will proceed as a traditional seminar, with groups readings, visiting speakers, and discussion. In Block 2, it will function more like a set of overlapping research clinics, with different teams devoted to particular topics. Teams will use class time to meet on their own, but we will also continue to convene as a whole for shared readings and full-group discussion.

Assessment Method

  • Weekly Reflection Journal (submitted as a portfolio at the end of Block 1): 30%

  • Individual Research Project: 40%

  • Group Project: 30%

Reading list

Readings will be made available digitally.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Ann Marie Wilson,