Executive Board Chair and Rector Magnificus Tim van der Hagen called it ‘the ideal location’ – TU Delft within walking distance of politics and ministries in ‘the city of peace, justice and security’. From the new branch on the Koekamp, it is only a two minute walk to the temporary House of Representatives.
Under the name TU Delft The Hague, TU Delft’s presence should bring advantages to both TU Delft and to The Hague, emphasised the speakers during the opening on Wednesday 7 June. The idea is that academics, politicians, and ministry staff meet each other when going for a coffee in the new location.
This should make is easier for academic information to filter through to policymakers at the ministries and in the political landscape. It should also make it easier for academics to gain a better understanding of the playing field of the seat of Government and to know what policymakers need from them. The underlying idea is that this should make it easier to align their research accordingly. This will initially be done in three areas: climate & energy, digitalisation, and safety & security.
Master’s in The Hague
How the exchange will happen in reality still needs to be seen. A glimpse at how this might transpire can be seen in the Engineering and Policy Analysis master’s which has been located at the Wijnhavengebouw in The Hague since 2015. About 90 students each year are regularly present in the University of Leiden’s building. The proximity of The Hague’s policymakers is an asset for the master’s, says Haiko van der Voort the degree programme’s Director. It is much easier for civil servants and politicians to drop by for a lecture or workshop. Speakers also visit regularly.
‘You need to to look each other in the eye’
The Climate Action Hub, which was opened at the Wijnhavengebouw in 2021, is another good example. Its mission is to work with civic partners in the area of climate research and education. The location worked out well for this says Behnam Taebi, academic head of TU Delft The Hague and Professor of Energy and Climate Ethics. “The people from TU Delft and policymakers have regular discussions. The new location is even closer to the House of Representatives and other government agencies and this should make meetings even easier.”
That said, in an era of ever more digitalisation, it feels contradictory to open a new physical location. Especially in a different city. Does the physical proximity really bring added value compared to Zoom? Taebi believes this to be the case. “I do not think that everything will be digital. You need to look each other in the eye when entering a serious conversation.”
The TU Delft’s growth plans, which also include The Hague, are not uncontested. Is the new location the first step? Taebi says that they are two different developments. “They may merge more closely at some point. The developments of TU Delft in The Hague started more than two years ago with the intention of getting closer to policy and the public administration. No classes will be held at this location in New Babylon. The location is intended for knowledge exchange between researchers, politicians, ministries and NGOs (non-governmental organisations, Eds.).”
In a few years’ time, TU Delft and other academic institutions, including the University of Leiden, will move into the Spuigebouw in The Hague, which was previously occupied by the V&D and Hudson’s Bay department stores. This too will be a space for ‘knowledge exchange’. There are as yet no plans to offer courses at locations in The Hague, says Van der Voort. “Though this may of course change in the future.”