How can students contribute to the search for solutions to deep-rooted issues of resilience such as social inequality, flooding, residential issues, traffic jams, unemployment, cyber hacks and the reduction of particulates in urban areas? In September, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences took the latest step towards making that contribution a reality by introducing a minor in Creating Resilient Cities. ‘Resilience is very topical at the moment,’ Spoelman explains. ‘Another reason to set up the programme was the Municipality of Rotterdam’s resilience strategy, which forms the basis for much of the course material. The minor offers students the opportunity to specialise in resilience. We teach the students many different skills so they can become self-motivated, resilient professionals.’ The underlying idea is: for a city to be resilient, it needs resilient professionals.
Resilience and the built environment
The students will spend six months dealing with questions relating to resilience and the built environment. These questions are grounded in areas such as architecture, water management, civil engineering, construction, urban and regional planning, facility services, logistics and economics and real estate management. The students conduct comparative research into an issue that is relevant both to Rotterdam and to one of the 100 other resilient cities in the 100RC network. They also work in collaboration with overseas universities based in these cities. Students of higher professional education (HBO) who are in their third or fourth year and who have completed a work placement can register for the programme, as can third-, fourth- and fifth-year international students at partner universities who have a good command of English. Its international character means that the minor also functions as an exchange programme for knowledge and culture.
Not a holiday
The group that started in September is made up of 26 students, 11 of whom are from other countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Greece and Germany. They are divided in smaller groups to work on a resilience issue in Rotterdam, then they spend two weeks in one of the partner cities, working on a similar issue in that location. For the minor that began in September, those cities are Paris (focusing on climate change adaptation – river flooding), Bristol (liveability – affordable homes) and Thessaloniki (infrastructure development – new public transport links). The programme works in collaboration with Bristol University of West England (UWE), the ECE Paris and Aristotle University in Thessaloniki. ‘Their work is very valuable – it’s definitely not a holiday,’ says Spoelman. ‘The students work on practical assignments and learn to become critical researchers. Multidisciplinary cooperation is another priority. And, because they are comparing the cases in Rotterdam and overseas, the students are contributing to the knowledge created and exchanged within the 100RC network.’
Learning from each other
Fourth-year Water Management student at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences Matties van de Ven is currently taking the minor. ‘The international aspect appealed to me, as well as the cooperation and the opportunity to learn from each other. The minor is a good fit for my main study programme, as is the overseas internship with an Indonesian water board. Resilience demands a totally new thought process, thinking on multiple different levels about issues like climate change-proofing.’ Van de Ven and his group used this theme as the springboard for their work in Rotterdam and Paris: ‘The topic is river flooding,’ he explains. ‘Here, the Maas; there, the Seine. The French vision focuses on crisis management – and they’re really good at that – but they’re not focused on preventing a flood in the first place. I think we have a lot to learn from each other.’ In the future, he would like to run projects overseas. In his own words: ‘Climate change is a global problem that we have to solve together. I believe in sharing knowledge.’
Resilient Rotterdam and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences – together with other actors such as the Institute for the Built Environment, the Social Innovation Expertise Centre (EMI), RDM CoE and the Willem de Kooning Academy – are working together in several different areas; this minor is just one example of this collaboration. Another collaborative project is the Resilience Scan, a tool that has been developed to enable projects or districts to test their resilience. The students on the minor are looking into whether they could use the same scan during the programme.
The students also organise Resilience Cafés: a total of five networking events, each based around a different topic relating to resilience. People from outside the project are more than welcome to join these events. The minor will end with a final symposium on 7 February, which will also mark the start of the next minor. More information: https://www.facebook.com/CreatingResilientCities/