We live in a highly volatile environment. Our society changes very fast. These changes also transform the socio-spatial organisation of our society. By means of research, teaching, and consulting the Department of Human Geography of the Radboud University Nijmegen investigates, contributes and gives direction to these developments. As a scientific institution we want to play the role of an independent scientific consciousness of our society. As such we want to conceptualise, analyse and critically reflect the socio-spatial developments in our society and where possible provide suggestions and solutions for pressing socio-spatial problems. We want that our research, teaching and consulting matters!
In line with the university mission the bachelor- and master programme in Human Geography seeks to be a programme in which the student as person matters and in which the personal development of the student is stimulated. Students are thus not seen as sheer consumers of educational services but as persons who also actively take responsibility for their own formation. We want to offer them a programme which is based on the latest leading-edge insights and current topical debates in the field of Human Geography. To be able to do so, we strictly focus on the international research front e.g. by means of our international team of lecturers and researchers but also by means of the Alexander von Humboldt lecture series, in the framework of which we invite distinguished and internationally renown scientists who are relevant to the current scientific debates. To provide our students with early experience in an international setting several courses are taught in English with participation of foreign exchange students.
It is our designated objective to educate our students for taking up responsible high-level tasks and jobs in future, through which they can engage and play an important role in the formation of our society. To bring this about we seek a high level of knowledge in specified fields of Human Geography, and we learn our students to solve complex problems from a critical constructive attitude and teach them to interact in a multi-disciplinary context. Foremost we want to teach our students rigorous analytical thinking and the skill of independently exploring new fields of knowledge and to combine their knowledge with the expertise of others. Nowadays, it is generally accepted that there are no final truths, and that it is not enough, to have knowledge of a main stream of thought. We therefore want to learn our students to critically think about the world from different paradigmatic perspectives. In our current disenchanted scientific world, science can not count on its traditional privileged and valued position and in stead, constantly has to legitimise itself and to communicate its results to target groups. We therefore want to train our students in translating and communicating their scientific insights towards other scientists, practitioners, and towards a broader audience.
At some universities a fusion of professional and academic universities can be observed. The Radboud University Nijmegen has explicitely chosen not to do so and keep up the high academic standing and research orientation of the classic Humboldtian university. In this vision universities have their own role to play in our society. Our department welcomes this clear strategic decision as it confirms and enhances the strong departmental orientation towards academic and scientific research, teaching and thinking.
We pursue these goals through highly interactive teaching methods in small groups, a dedicated programme with a clear longitudinal development towards further deepening of knowledge and strengthening of academic skills.
Increasingly modern universities are organised as a flexible network organisation, in which expertise from different institutions is combined in a flexible way, to create the best of all sources. In the same way, we strive to intensify the co-operation of our department with other universities within the Netherlands and abroad. Students thus have the enriching opportunity of taking courses at other institutions, work together with students from other programmes and backgrounds and experience the combination of best practises in joint courses which are conducted together with other universities. In the long term this might even evolve in an international master-programme, conducted to close co-operation with foreign universities.
Although teaching and research are often dealt with in different ways, we believe that teaching and research are highly dovetailed. With our research we explore new fields of knowledge and infuse the results into an international scientific debate and give (policy) advises to practitioners, thus creating a certain impact. In very similar ways, in our teaching we develop thoughts about certain fields of knowledge and communicate these to our students, who will later on use these insights in their own professional praxis. Thus also the development of knowledge in the framework of our teaching substantially contributes to the scientific impact of our work. The objectives of our research are therefore also reflected in the objectives of our teaching as well as the other way around.
Every researcher functions best in an inspiring and dynamic research environment where there is a continual exchange of ideas with national and international colleagues both within and outside the discipline. We see it as our responsibility to create such an optimal research environment. This implies that we have to counteract the tendency towards creating business-like, nine-to-five culture. In stead we need free space to freely develop and exchange our scientific ideas and to jointly reflect on current socio-spatial tendencies. In spatial planning terms, one could call this a form of academic 'free zoning'. We do this by creating an active internal academic debate about topical research issues. The Alexander von Humboldt lecture series e.g. provides useful occasions to look beyond our daily research horizon and constructively engage with each others research and with the international research front.
Although our research is deliberately oriented towards the current socio-spatial problems of our society, our research is also explicitely free and independent. The focus of our research programmes thus mainly serves to enhance and support the potential co-operation between researchers and not as a disciplining suit of armour. As such our research programmes is highly dynamic and driven by scientific and societal developments. Innovative and pioneering research is only very partially to be found within the main stream of our discipline, as the main stream by definition is to a large part 'more of the same'. We therefore deliberately pursue the limits and boundaries of our knowledge and try to explore new frontiers and span the boundaries of our discipline for new ideas, new combinations, new contrasts, new commonalities, new insights. To stay at the leading edge of our research frontier, one also needs to set limits to the general tendency towards more prescribed focus, and critical mass in research. In stead, we want to stay broad minded and small enough as a research group to keep up innovativeness and volatility in our scientific thinking. At the same time we try to optimise our internal and external co-operation by operating in two overlapping research teams: One focussed on border research and one focussed on urban and regional development.
In the dynamics of the internationalisation and globalisation geographical borders are more and more considered as challenges for further integration. At the same time however, borders still are considered to be barriers in many ways. Borders represent important values of identity of people and demarcate the sovereignty of governments. Because of this tension between borders as 'meeting-places' and borders as 'cut-off lines' borders have become maybe more important then ever before in the European society. As research team within the Department of Human Geography of the Nijmegen School of Management of the University of Nijmegen we have gained a great deal of expertise on the field of borders and border regions the past few years. To deepen this theme theoretically and empirically in a broader and institutional context, the Nijmegen Centre for Border Research has been established in 1998.
Important themes in the present research include:
- Borders, Nationalism and Transnationalism
- Transnational, International and Euregional Governance
- Processes of Bordering, Ordering and Othering
- Perceptions and Representations of Borders
- Spheres of Belonging and Identification
- Cross-border Networks and Bi-National Cities
- Cross-border Practices, Narratives and Imaginations
- Migration, Multiculturalism and Diversity
- Cosmopolitanism, Globalisation and Europeanisation
- Anti-and Post-Colonialism
Urban and regional development
Cities and regions are core places sites socio-economic development, where the complexities and challenges of our present day are felt intensely. Under conditions of globalisation, urban conglomerations and regions increasingly stand out as vital places sites for economic governance, nurturing innovation, aligning processes of education, training, business support, infrastucture building and sectoral developments. To enable this, and to promote their external position, cities and region have increasingly become entrepreneurial, as manifest through the drafting and implementation of development and marketing strategies, and, in institutional terms, the creation of development coalitions and regimes. Such efforts are not only geared to economic development, but also to balance local needs with social and environmental ambitions. An essential aspect cutting through these various dimensions is the prominent role of community building and identity . This research team explores these issues in three areas of the world: Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Prof. dr. Huib Ernste