University College Utrecht

University College Utrecht
Motto Sol Iustitiae Illustra Nos
Motto in English
Sun of Righteousness, shine upon us
Type Public, Liberal arts college
Established 1998
Dean Prof.dr. James Kennedy
Academic staff
Students 750
Undergraduates 750
Postgraduates 0
Address Campusplein 1, 3584ED, Utrecht, Utrecht, Netherlands
52°05′00″N 5°08′52″E / 52.0833°N 5.1478°E / 52.0833; 5.1478Coordinates: 52°05′00″N 5°08′52″E / 52.0833°N 5.1478°E / 52.0833; 5.1478
Campus Urban
Affiliations Utrecht University
University College Utrecht campus, 2006

University College Utrecht (UCU) is an international Honors College of Utrecht University (UU). UCU is a selective liberal arts, undergraduate college of 700 students within Utrecht University. Located between the two UU sites, Uithof and City Center, it has its own residential campus in the city of Utrecht, the Netherlands. The language of instruction is English.


UCU's residential and educational Campus is located at the former Kromhout Kazerne, a turn of the century military base that used to be part of the Hollandic Water Line. The students live in the oldest quarter of the base, the other three quarters remain in possession of the Dutch Ministry of Defense.

Room and board

Students are housed in student accommodation on the Campus terrain. The Dining Hall provides two meals throughout term-time. The college also has its own student-run bar, The UCSA College Bar.

During the summer most students leave the campus and there is only limited accommodation to stay on campus. Upon return the next year the students move into a new room, a new 'unit', with new housemates. The houses have 2 to 12 private rooms and shared communal spaces (bathroom facilities and a living room with a kitchenette).

Student population

As of 2010 University College Utrecht consisted of 723 students. Of these 723 students, 64% are of Dutch nationality. The remaining 36% are made up of a wide range of nationalities.[1] All students are automatically members of the University College Student Association (UCSA) which organises social and creative activities and is led by the UCSA Board, which consists of six members that are annually elected. Additionally, the Academic Student Council (ASC) defends students' interests in academic matters. Like the UCSA Board, the ASC members are annually elected by the students. Finally, there are two fraternities (Disputum Primus Erectus and Onafhankelijk Heeren Genootschap Equites), two sororities (Luna and Onafhankelijk Dames Dispuut Allure) and one fratority (Alpha Beta Phi).

Life on campus

The 750 students at UCU form a tight community and are in constant contact with each other. This is because of the relatively small size of the campus, the wide variety of activities organised by the several dozen UCSA committees, the campus bar, several fraternities and sororities and mixed on-campus housing. The campus bar is the heart of campus life. Especially every Tuesday and Thursday and on special nights the bar is packed with a large part of the students living at UCU, as well as alumni and off-campus friends.

The student committees are also an important part of campus life. Activities include such things as sports, music and politics. To emphasize the international character of the college, UCU organises a much appraised Model United Nations every year; UNISUN.

Academic buildings

Academic building, 2008

The classes are in three academic buildings. These stand around the central quad on both sides of the College Hall. Each is named after a famous scientist/philosopher:

There is a fourth academic building, that used to be part of the UCU teaching environment, but is currently not used by UCU anymore. The building is called Descartes and it used to house the Academic Core courses, like languages and obligatory courses.

Selection of students

Students admission policy is based on merit, broad academic interest, and motivation. The application procedure includes submission of a letter of motivation, references, an English proficiency requirement, as well as an interview: all this is highly unusual in the Netherlands. It is also still very controversial legally and socially; as a result UCU has acquired somewhat of a reputation for elitism and snobbery, which is occasionally expressed in both national and regional press. This is reflected by studies which focused on student satisfaction and overall quality by magazines like Elsevier etc. UCU's student body is largely of a comparable socio-economic background to the general university population in the Netherlands. Many Dutch and international UCU students need to find loans and jobs, which is not easy given the intensity of the College's academic programme. For this reason, UCU has established a Student Aid Fund and is actively seeking funds; the College has recently encountered difficulties securing scholarships for foreign students. An additional challenge towards UCU's aim to ensure a broad and diverse international student population have been recent government actions that have made it more difficult for some foreigners to obtain a residence permit for the Netherlands.


UCU is a three-year undergraduate programme leading to a B.Sc. or B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences. The College offers no Masters courses, but students have direct access to those offered at the University of Utrecht. Students of UCU are also students of the University of Utrecht and therefore also have access to all its services, such as libraries.


UCU has been on top of the national rankings in the past. In the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 issues of Elsevier magazine’s extensive survey among Dutch institutes of higher education, students rated UCU as the best university college in the country.

In the 2013 national student survey (Nationale Studentenenquête or NSE) UCU ranked highest among Utrecht University's bachelor programs.

The Keuzegids (study choice guide) 2014 has awarded University College Utrecht the 'Top Rated Programme' quality seal. The Keuzegids assessed about 400 bachelor programs on success rates, quality of education, quality of teaching, facilities and more. UCU scored particularly well on the scientific content of the program, teachers and communication.

The 2013 Academic Ranking of World Universities conducted by Shanghai University ranks Utrecht University as #1 in the Netherlands, #13 in Europe and #52 in the world. The research focused Shanghai ranking is an influential index of universities worldwide.

The World University Rankings 2011-12 conducted by British magazine Times Higher Education ranks Utrecht University as #1 in the Netherlands, #18 in Europe and #68 in the world.

UCU is accredited by the NVAO, the Accreditation Organization of the Netherlands and Flanders.[2]

Academic calendar

The academic year begins in the last week of August or first week of September and it is divided in two semesters of 15 weeks (including one week Mid-term Break). And each semester a student takes 4 courses. There is an optional 5 week Summer or Third Term, during which a student takes one course that can be used to acquire extra credit, to do a special course (such as a Laboratory Course), or to compensate for a failed course.


After their first year students elect a major in either Humanities, Social Sciences, Sciences, a double major in any two of these or an interdepartmental major in a combination of these. In the latter cases a student will have to make a convincing argument to the Director of Education.

Students are encouraged to experiment in combining courses, thereby encouraging multidisciplinary research and interests. In any major a student needs to take 10 courses, of which three at the advanced level and in at least two different fields of study. This will lead to the BA degree (Bachelor of Arts). A BSc degree (Bachelor of Science) requires 12 courses in the Sciences department, the extra two courses being two lab courses to be taken in the Summer or Third term. Furthermore, a student is required to take at least one course in each department, learn one new foreign language, and pass the core courses Academic English & Introduction to academia, and one course appropriate to the major.

Each course is worth 4 UCU credits (or 7.5 ECTS). There is continuous assessment based on papers/essays, presentations, class participation and exams. Grades are on the A-F scale (A being 4.0). First year courses are not factored into the students overall grade point average. Therefore, students are only accounted for their second and third courses when applying to graduate programs.

Exchange programmes

Apart from taking courses at other universities in the Netherlands, UCU students have the opportunity to go on exchange to a wide variety of highly respected universities worldwide from the University of California to Kyoto University.


The College also publishes its own academic magazine Eidos with an editorial board consisting of both staff and students. The editors are usually students. Every summer it combines the 10 most interesting and best of the student papers produced during the last academic year with a specially themed photography series, commissioned by one of the students.

History and philosophy

Founded in 1998 by Hans Adriaansens and formally founded in 1999, UCU was the first honors college of the Netherlands. Subsequently an honors program was initiated in Maastricht, University College Maastricht, and recently Hans Adriaansens founded the Roosevelt Academy in Middelburg which was elected as the best university college in the Netherlands by The Keuzegids Onderwijs 2011 and is also a part of Utrecht University. In 2009, the University of Amsterdam opened a similar style college.

Hans Adriaansens wanted to offer students an alternative to the great 'education factories' that are, in his opinion, the Dutch universities: impersonal, inefficient, and one-size-fits-all. He started UCU amongst others to get the discussion on Higher Education in the Netherlands going: there should be more attention to the highest performers if the Netherlands wanted to keep competitive in the world market.

Hans Adriaansens' selective colleges are still highly controversial in the Netherlands. There is still some doubt as to the legality of UCU's practices, as the Dutch law guarantees access to Higher Education to all in the possession of a VWO-diploma (Cf. English A-levels) and university education cannot be denied. UCU exploits a loophole in this law by having students apply to a programme at Utrecht University and only afterwards 'inviting' them to come and study at UCU, which is a 'master-class' of several of Utrecht University's other departments. Hence the title 'Honors College'.


Alumni of UCU have been accepted into programmes at universities worldwide, such as Princeton University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, the London School of Economics, the University of Amsterdam, University of Edinburgh, INSEAD, Harvard University, and into the University of California System, while some have continued their studies at UCU's mother university Utrecht University. UCU's alumni are represented by the University College Alumni Association (UCAA).

In June 2007, University College Utrecht was evaluated on many facets by a unique joint commission consisting of both a council from QANU, an independent assessor of higher education programs in the Netherlands, as well as delegates from the American Higher Learning Commission. The report graded the quality of its education and the level achieved as "excellent". It praised UCU's ambitious international mission and found the college to be in an outstanding position to develop its own brand of Liberal Arts and Sciences to meet the challenges of the 21st century.


The following figures apply to the academic year 2013-2014. Students pay €7800 for 10 months Room & Board service. Students from within the European Economic Area pay a tuition fee of €3500, Non-EEA students pay €8900. All students pay a contribution of €60 to the UCSA (University College Students Association).[3]


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