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CfH Lectures


This lecture was given by Mr. Frans Timmermans within the framework of the Treaty of Utrecht around the topic of the Academic and the Civic in Europe. Historically, relations between the universities as the location of academic research and their social, cultural and political contexts have been a matter of perennial concern. The academic and the civic have been regarded as, variously, opposed, inextricable, and mutually complicit. In most European universities higher education and scientific research have aimed at producing enlightened, functional and discerning citizens. This classical model of scientific excellence has been reviewed recently in response to economic globalization. This has led to national and international debates about the function of university education with more emphasis being placed on the ‘knowledge transfer’ agenda as an attempt to build new relationships between academics and the ‘users’ of research. The effects of civic pressures on disciplinary formation and innovation are complex and penetrate well beyond the teaching curricula of universities to re-shape the very idea of ‘research’ and its value to society. It also follows that new research questions within academia are produced. These include, when did the image of the ‘ivory tower’ emerge to isolate what went on in universities from the life that surrounded their precincts, and to what extent does that image still remain in the minds of citizens? Do academics still retain an aura of cultural authority, and from what is it assumed to derive? What is the impact of the new European Union in redefining the civic responsibilities of the University? This research project calls on an investigation of the mechanisms by which ideas are generated, transmitted, and ‘applied’ in extra-academic environments and in the context of government pressure to demonstrate the ‘impact’ and ‘knowledge exchange’ components of university research. The Humanities are at the core of this crucial development and we believe that they are best suited to provide insightful and workable solutions to these questions.

The Treaty of Utrecht Chair programme was founded to highlight the relevance of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713) in current European and international perspective. Central in this programme are social sustainability, cultural diversity, dialogue, respect for each other, mediation, tolerance, inspiration and diplomacy. The Treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713 and is considered to be the commencement of modern diplomacy. This treaty marked the end of almost two centuries of (religious) wars and conflicts. In 1713 the rich and festive offer of art and cultural activities in Utrecht was the binding factor between the different cultures of the diplomats and negotiators, which brought them closer and made the signing of the Treaty easier. The Treaty of Utrecht Chair is an initiative of the Province of Utrecht and is sponsored by Utrecht University, the Treaty of Utrecht Organisation and the Province of Utrecht. The Chair is hosted by the Centre for the Humanities of the Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University.