Visit from HM Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
5 December 2008
On 4 December, Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands made a private visit to UCL's Department of Dutch - the UK's first and largest centre for the study of the culture and history of the Low Countries.
During an event in the Jeremy Bentham Room, Her Majesty the Queen was presented with the first copy of a new English translation of 'Young, inspired and committed - the Chronicle of a European Venture 1962-1968' - edited by Jane Fenoulhet, Senior Lecturer in Dutch at UCL. It tells the story of the European Working Group - a pan-European voluntary organisation for young people which was established and presided over by Queen Beatrix in an attempt to transcend national borders and benefit developing communities.
The event was opened by Professor Malcolm Grant, President and Provost of UCL, who welcomed the distinguished guests. Professor Henry Woudhuysen, UCL Dean of Arts & Humanities, then read a speech on behalf of the Chair of UCL Council, Sir Stephen Wall (European historian and former adviser on Europe to the Prime Minister), who was unable to attend in person.
Sir Stephen's speech reflected on the strengths of 'Young, Inspired and Committed' as an account of history given by actual participants: a recounting of events without retrospective justification. The 1960s was an era of student idealism, and although 'Young, Inspired and Committed' reflects upon the failures of the European Working Group as well as its successes, it was composed of young people who did something about their beliefs, who dared to be "bold, brave and out of line", he said.
Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands then formally presented the first copy of 'Young, Inspired and Committed' to Mrs Catherine Dyas van Popta, widow of Martin Dyas, to whom, along with David Mitchnick, the work is dedicated. Her Majesty the Queen acknowledged the energy that had gone into the work's publication, and talked about the belief of the European Working Group that Europe could and should develop a union that would make a difference to the world.
Finally, four current students from UCL Dutch talked about what Europe means to them. Mark Potter, a final-year undergraduate, talked about his year in the Netherlands through the Erasmus scheme and how it encouraged multilingualism and multiculturalism, helping to dispel "the dreadful image of Brits abroad."
MA student Julia Smith talked about her belief in a culturally diverse Europe that is not stifled by bureaucrats, and which continues to ask what responsibility it has in the world.
Final year undergraduate Debbie Iles then contrasted current-day Europe with the Europe of the 1960s: "What once was a dream is now a reality, and we have the freedom to enjoy the benefits fought for in the '60s", she said.
"We're delighted and honoured to welcome Her Majesty the Queen to UCL," says Professor Theo Hermans, Head of UCL Dutch. "We have a number of collaborative research projects with Dutch and Flemish universities and this visit is yet another illustration of the strong relationship UCL enjoys with the Netherlands. We have exciting plans for the department and look forward to working closely with the UK Embassies of Belgium and the Netherlands and with the Flanders Representation over the coming years."
Established in 1919, UCL's Department of Dutch is uniquely placed to nurture innovative teaching and research in Dutch studies, hosting a concentration of resources which is unparalleled anywhere in the English-speaking world. With specialists in Dutch, History, and History of Art, a unique Dutch Writer-in-Residence Programme, outstanding library facilities and plans to offer distance-learning programmes at postgraduate level from September 2009, the department is recognised as a centre of excellence in both teaching and research. The department was awarded a top rating of 5 in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise carried out by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, and the most recent Quality Assurance Agency Subject Review assessed teaching quality as very high, awarding a total of 22 points out of a possible maximum of 24. Many aspects of the department's teaching provision were commended, including the design and content of the curriculum, the provision of language teaching for all abilities, and the support and guidance offered to students regarding careers.
Top right - The Queen with Professor Malcolm Grant
Above - The Queen with Professor Theo Hermans (far left) and the UCL Dutch Department
Bottom right - The Queen with members of the former European Working Group and the student speakers