On 18 November, the university launched Radboud Impact Day, a nationwide campaign to encourage young people in particular to think about their consumption behaviour and how they can influence the future through education and research. At the heart of the campaign was a poignant one-minute film that was shown that day during four primetime commercial breaks on the public television channels. The film was also shared online and via social media; almost 1,900 students, staff and alumni had committed to spreading the campaign through their own channels and networks. Institutions also joined in, such as the Municipality of Nijmegen, Rabobank and the Universities of the Netherlands.
Pim van Zanen, Marketing & Communications division director: “It was extraordinary to experience the number of positive reactions from internal and external parties. People support the direction of Radboud University, and it was great to see that many people are proud to be part of this.”
“People support the sustainable direction of Radboud University, and it was great to see that many people are proud to be part of this.”
Impact Day is a follow-up to the ‘You have a part to play’ campaign from 2019, which was aimed at bonding students and staff to Radboud University based on social commitment. This ambition is already bearing fruit in the recruitment of new staff. The Human Resources division has noted an increasing number of potential new employees who, when applying for jobs, refer to the message of wanting to contribute to a more sustainable world.
To reinforce the new campaign and set a good example as a university, it was announced that starting this academic year, every student will be confronted with sustainability issues during their studies. The study programmes will choose how to do this: it could be a separate course, or the topic could be incorporated into the curriculum, internships or theses. This ambition was already announced in the university’s strategy in 2019, and it has now been achieved.
Rector Magnificus Han van Krieken: “Radboud University was founded on a sense of involvement with the world and society, with emancipation as a main motive. While developing the strategy, we talked to many people. We noticed the ecological crisis is seen as one of biggest of our time and we want to join in.”
While sustainability is the core of the campaigns, it is understood in the broadest sense of the word, as already expressed in the university’s strategy, A Significant Impact (2019). In it, the concept is linked to issues such as poverty, low literacy and health.
Sustainability Programme Director Marije Klomp believes the theme of sustainability is a perfect fit for Radboud University. “As a university, we have traditionally had a reflective character: we ask questions first and then look for solutions. That approach fits the sustainability issue.” Klomp emphasises that Impact Day is not an advertisement for the university, but for the issue. “With this message, we transcend our own interests. Many institutions are already working on this, and it’s good to join forces. The clock is ticking away, and no one can turn it back on their own.”
Radboud Impact Day did in fact have an impact: the messages that were first shared on the university's social media channels, television, online video services and daily newspaper homepages were widely shared and recognised, according to an initial assessment. In short: the message was shared 1.3 million times via social media, especially on Twitter. The video also reached 4.7 million television viewers (plus 605,000 online views). Of note was the additional attention in the national media, where Executive Board president Daniël Wigboldus was a guest on the NOS Radio 1 news programme and Han van Krieken on radio opinion programme Dit is de Dag. The NOS Journaal TV news programme also broadcast a report from the campus, and many media outlets reported on sustainability in education. There were also newspaper articles in De Volkskrant, Trouw, NRC and De Telegraaf.
Impact Day also received some critical reactions. In an opinion piece published in Vox and De Volkskrant newspaper, science journalist Enith Vlooswijk wrote that “universities are responsible for teaching students a profession and academic skills, not for inciting them to make certain political choices”. The campaign also met with criticism from the Lower House. “Those who study in Nijmegen are forced into the university’s climate framework”, wrote Lower House member Nicki Pouw-Verweij (JA21) on Twitter. Her party believes that Radboud University is going too far by requiring that sustainability be addressed in its curricula. She questioned that decision in Parliament.
However, there were many more positive reactions, including the following tweets. “This fits in very well with the Catholic roots of the university”, wrote Eric Holterhues. Economics professor Esther-Mirjam Sent, national chair of the Dutch Labour Party since 2021: “This is why I am so happy to be associated with Radboud University. Make an impact. #jebentnodig.” Nijmegen mayor Hubert Bruls also responded on Twitter: “...Buy consciously and sustainably and determine your impact on the climate.”