Balancing tradition and change

University education has changed significantly in recent decades, and continues to do so, as the expectations of students, stakeholders and society towards universities evolve. This process is further influenced by universities’ diverse historical, disciplinary and regional backgrounds. The 2020 European Learning & Teaching Forum explored how institutions balance tried and trusted practices and innovative approaches to learning and teaching in a dynamic and increasingly digital and international environment.


Through a mix of plenary and parallel sessions, the Forum provided a platform for discussion on how universities enhance learning and teaching, while also presenting the work of the 2019 EUA Learning & Teaching Thematic Peer Groups. The Forum has been an ideal event for vice-rectors for academic affairs, deans, and management involved in learning and teaching. It also welcomed students, policy-makers and other stakeholders in higher education.

For updates, look out for #EUALearnTeach on Twitter and/or join the LinkedIn group Learning & Teaching in European Higher Education.  

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Foto Henk KummelingWhile Utrecht University is known as a strong research university, we are proud of our long-standing tradition of investing in educational innovation. At many universities across the globe, the balance between research and education has been distorted: often, research is being valued over education in academic careers. Utrecht University understands that to refine this balance, a gradual organisational change is needed. At our university, a strong educational policy helps to ensure that education and educational innovation are anchored in the institution.

Utrecht University realises that major societal changes require the university to take on a new role. We give substance to this change by making the university permeable and to ensure interaction between the university and society. With initiatives such as Meet the Professor, where professors come into contact with primary school pupils, we open the university up to the outside world. Our strong focus on Community Service Learning is another example of how we encourage the intertwining of university and society at large.

To encourage educational innovation at our university, it is key that teaching staff feels empowered and in control of their teaching. Our vision is that our academic teaching staff is pivotal in the innovation of teaching at Utrecht University. The Utrecht Educational Model, the basis for the organisation of education, encourages this by providing a clear framework of teaching qualifications (such as the University Teaching Qualification, introduced by Utrecht University), while simultaneously leaving room for personal choice and development for teachers.

Utrecht University strongly believes in step-wise development. We aim to take measures that challenge people to step outside their comfort zone and learn. Finding the right balance is crucial in this. Good policy requires both a vision for the future of the university, as well as consistency: a dot on the horizon that allows for the slow and adaptive culture change that is needed to alter the system.

Henk Kummeling,  Rector Magnificus, Utrecht University

©Dick Boetekees



Founded in 1636 and located in the heart of the Netherlands, Utrecht University is one of Europe's leading research universities. The university is located in one of the most competitive regions in Europe and was shortlisted for the Global Teaching Excellence Award 2017. The university conducts fundamental and societally relevant research into a vast array of disciplines that inspires multidisciplinary research inside and outside the university. But the university is not only recognised internationally for its high-quality research, it is also known for its outstanding, innovative and inclusive education. Utrecht University has always been at the forefront of excellent and pioneering education. At the university, teaching is embedded in a vision based on the Utrecht Educational Model. This results in outstanding academic outcomes for our over 30,000 students, studying at our 45 bachelor's programmes and 140 master's programmes.

Utrecht University brings a range of ideas, experiences and good practices to the European Learning & Teaching Forum series. We would like to share these practices with colleagues from all over Europe. At Utrecht University we are also constantly looking for ideas to develop our own education and we are very interested in learning from the projects of partner institutions across Europe. Furthermore, we believe that hosting the Forum for partner institutions of higher education will improve and help deepen existing partnerships and exchange and foster new ones. Interaction and discussion with international colleagues, while working on similar educational themes, will have a positive impact and improve the quality of academic education.

This video gives a short impression of Utrecht University.


Photo Utrecht City credits Ivar Pel resizedUtrecht, a lively student city in the heart of the Netherlands, can be easily reached by air (50 minutes by train from Amsterdam Schiphol airport), train and car. Utrecht provides a beautiful and inspiring urban setting for nurturing talent and creativity. It is a dynamic, growing city that is characterised by a personal, human scale. Utrecht has a rich history going back almost 2,000 years and an architectural legacy that reflects both its medieval and modern history. The original city centre remains largely intact, and the Dom Tower, a symbol of Utrecht, rises high above the city, surrounded by picturesque canals, elegant parks and its central shopping district. Cafes and restaurants offering cuisines from around the world, cinemas, clubs, boutiques and cultural venues give Utrecht its unique vitality and atmosphere. Most of Utrecht University’s students live off-campus in the city itself, contributing to Utrecht’s youthful and dynamic energy. The bustling student community includes more than 150 different student organisations and societies. Utrecht uses innovation and sustainable initiatives to meet new challenges and achieve its ambitions. Thanks to the help of a young, talented workforce and a citywide programme to create a sustainable society, Utrecht was recently voted the most competitive region in Europe.


Photo © Ivar Pel

2020 Learning & Teaching Forum papers can be found, dowloaded and shared  from this webpage.

Forum Venues

Forum sessions on Thursday 13 and 14 February 

Utrecht University
University Hall
Domplein 29
3512 JE Utrecht

Forum dinner on Thursday 13 February

De Utrechter
Vredenburg 40
3511 BD Utrecht
A map with the location of the different venues and hotels (see Accommodation tab) can be consulted here.

Social Programme

De Utrechter outside credits Algemeen Dagblad
The Forum dinner will take place at De Utrechter on Thursday 13 February at 19:30. - The restaurant is situated on the ground floor of a historic building in the centre of Utrecht. It is a lively spot, interweaving the history of the site with a contemporary menu, mainly using local produce. De Utrechter is located at a 10 minute-walking distance from the Forum venue.


For more information on how to get to the venue and practicalities for the Forum, please consult both documents below:


© Algemeen Dagblad

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