4 May 2023
Addressing the Elephant in the Lecture Hall: Climate Education Now

Dear Boards of Directors of Dutch Higher Education Institutions,

We are calling on you because you lead organizations that bear the responsibility of preparing students for their future as professionals. Together with a community of teachers, researchers and support staff, you perform this task with great dedication and care.

Over the past few decades, it has become increasingly evident that the future of students and their contemporaries is threatened by the climate and ecological crisis. We therefore urge you to include mandatory climate education in all curricula in order to familiarize students with the systemic nature of the climate and ecological crisis and empower them to take action.

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaves no room for doubt or delay. Only with a dramatic, concerted effort will we be able to avert the worst. This is the backdrop against which universities educate the generations that will have to deal with a fundamentally disrupted world. Lack of understanding of the scale, urgency and causes of the problem will leave students vulnerable to misrepresentations by politicians and media outlets. Higher education institutions have a duty to educate students and to foster their development as responsible members of society. We are convinced this implies preparing the students to face the challenges posed by the climate and ecological crisis, and equipping them to lead and effect change.

A mandatory climate course across all higher education institutions should be the first step. This course, to be implemented urgently, should offer a comprehensive overview of the systemic causes and consequences of the climate and ecological crisis and potential solutions. The complex nature of the problem requires action and leadership from individuals and organizations across all sectors of society. This course would be tailor-made for each study programme, including at least the basic science on global heating and its consequences, and discussing feasible mitigation pathways, and questions of global equity and justice. 

We emphasize that this education proposal is not about promoting a political agenda. The scientific consensus on the severity and the causes of the climate and ecological crisis is well established, as documented in the IPCC report.

Universities in France and Spain have already taken the necessary steps to introduce a mandatory climate course. Dutch higher education should not fall behind. Students in the Netherlands and around the world are demanding change and it is time for a bold response.

The climate and ecological crisis is the elephant in the lecture hall. Higher education institutes owe it to their students, the community and future generations to take decisive action.

We urge you to implement a mandatory course on the climate and ecological crisis  – now.

Update 07 May 2023

Author information

This open letter was put forward by Juliette Alenda (Radboud University), Ivo Bouwmans (TU Delft), Harald Buijtendijk (Breda University of Applied Sciences), Fabian Dablander (University of Amsterdam), Guus Dix (University of Twente), Edina Dóci (VU Amsterdam), Loes Kreemers (Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), Koen Lemaire (VU Amsterdam), Maien Sachisthal (University of Amsterdam) and Jorim Tielbeek (VU Amsterdam).

The open letter has been endorsed by Scientist Rebellion Netherlands and Scientists for Future Netherlands.

1,589 verified
  1. Fabian Dablander, Researcher, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  2. Ivo Bouwmans, Lecturer, TU Delft, Delft
  3. Edina Dóci, Associate Professor, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  4. Juliette Alenda, Assistant Professor, Radboud University, Nijmegen
  5. Cristiana Strava, University Lecturer, Leiden University, Leiden
  6. Maien Sachisthal, Postdoc, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  7. Saara Taavila, PhD student, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  8. Helena Schmidt, PhD candidate, TU Delft, Rotterdam
  9. Floor Basten, Postdoc, Radboud University, Nijmegen
  10. Marjan Smeulders, researcher, Radboud University, Nijmegen
  11. Clemens Kaupa, Universitair docent, VU, Amsterdam
  12. Jessica Hill, Assistant professor, VU university, Amsterdam
  13. Elisabeth Tschavgova, PhD candidate, TU Delft, Delft
  14. Margriet Schager, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  15. Sjoerd Kluiving, Associate Professor, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
  16. Loes Kreemers, Behavioral Scientist, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam
  17. Mylene van der Koogh, PhD candidate, Hogeschool van Amsterdam
  18. Marleen Balvert, Assistant professor, Tilburg University, Utrecht
  19. Katinka Quintelier, assistant professor, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  20. Sophia Guan, Student, Amsterdam University College, Amsterdam
1,549 more
verified signatures
  1. Ina Vollmer, Assistant Professor, Utrecht University, Utrecht
  2. Ellen, Coordinator Green Office, Christelijke Hogeschool Ede, Ede
  3. Marcel van Daalen, Assistant Professor, Leiden University, Leiden
  4. N. Evertsz, Agile Coach, evertsz consultancy, Amsterdam
  5. Fabian Braun, Student, HTE, LEIDEN
  6. Karel Jan Alsem, Professor of applied sciences in Marketing, Hanze University of Applied SciencesGroningen, Haren Gn
  7. Sabrina Zetzsche, Student, TU Delf5, Delft
  8. Matteo Sciumbata, PhD candidate, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  9. Pieter Levecque, Head of Research, Battolyser Systems, The Hague
  10. Louis Taillandier, Student, TU Delft, Delft
  11. Hannah Kasak-Gliboff, University of Groningen
  12. Begüm, Student, TU Delft, Amsterdam
  13. Jan Groenhuis, Junior Teacher, TU Delft, Delft
  14. Frank Olsthoorn, Product Specialist Industrial IoT, MCS, Schiedam
  15. Jessi van der Hoeven, Assistant Professor, Utrecht University, Utrecht
  16. Rebecca de Leeuw, Assistant professor, Radboud University, Nijmegen
  17. Vera van Jaarsveld, Teacher Educator, Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen
  18. Magdalena Holzner, Student, Radboud University, Nijmegen
  19. Sanne van Essen, Researcher, TU Delft / MARIN, Utrecht
  20. Emanuele De Gasperis, Student, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam
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