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Interdisciplinary education

The UvA Create a Course Challenge

Do you have a great idea for a new course? Join the UvA Create a Course Challenge! We challenge you to submit an idea for a course and to develop it together with the curriculum experts of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS). Who knows – next year, you may get to work as a student assistant in your own course!


The IIS challenges all UvA students to help think about how teaching should be organised, what subjects should be taught, the kinds of methods that should be used and the roles students and lecturers should play. The UvA Create a Course Challenge is calling for students to explore uncharted terrain and to think about ways to make education fun, challenging and meaningful.

With this challenge, the IIS wants to give students a say in the way education is organised at the Institute and within the University. The Challenge gives you the chance to make your vision on education a reality. The winning course will be launched in September 2019.

Create a Course Challenge IIS

Students without borders

Crossing boundaries is what the Challenge is all about. Not just between students and lecturers and between faculties and disciplines, but also between academia and society.

  • How does it work?

    The UvA Create a Course Challenge consists of four rounds. In the final round, the winner is chosen by a jury. The IIS and the winner will work together to develop the course. The Challenge is open to all UvA students, Bachelor’s and Master’s alike.

    Round 1: Submit your idea

    Deadline: 29 September 2019

    A great scientist once said: ‘A good idea fits on the back of a beer mat.’ Write your idea on a Create a Course beer mat (get one at your study association) or download the beer mat here. Of course, you can also use a beer mat from a beach bar in Thailand, a brewery in Boston or wherever else you are spending your holidays this summer!

    Take a picture of the beer mat with your idea and send it to:

    No beer coaster to hand? Fill one in online.

    Round 2: Develop your idea

    Deadline: 3 November 2019

    As soon as we receive your idea through one of the channels above, we’ll send you a form you can use to further develop your idea. Which teaching methods will be used in your course? What will the students learn? Which lecturers will be involved? What study material will the students use, and how will they be assessed?

    Round 3: Nominate your favourite idea

    Between 7 and 18 November 2019

    All UvA students and staff may vote once for their favourite course idea The five ideas  with the most votes will continue in the challenge and will go to round 4. 

    Round 4: Pitch your idea to a jury

    Date: 28 November 2019

    17:30 - 19:30 @de Brug, Roeterseiland

    During the final event in the Bridge on the Roeterseiland Campus, the jury decides which entry will be rewarded with the realization of the course. One of the jury members is Geert ten Dam, chairman of the Executive Board. We will announce the other jury members closer to the final. The winner may then immediately start working as a student assistant in the development of the course. After the final, we will all toast the winner!

  • Conditions

    When developing your idea, keep in mind the following requirements and guidelines.


    • The course must be suited for second and third-year UvA Bachelor’s students.
    • The course must be designed for a minimum of 20 participants
    • Number of credits: 6 (ECTS)
    • The course may be either in English or in Dutch
    • The course must be interdisciplinary in nature

    Your course will be assessed on the following criteria:

    • Content: interdisciplinary, creative, socially relevant
    • Lecturers: think about which lecturers you want to be involved in your course. Keep in mind that the course should be interdisciplinary in nature, which means the lecturers must have different academic backgrounds.
    • Teaching methods: activating lectures / creative methods / Bildung
    • Assessment format: learning objectives and the way these can be tested
  • The ideas of 2018

    Out of a total of 26 submitted ideas, the programme committee of the UvA Create a Challenge Course selected 10 ideas. This selection is based on interdisciplinarity, current issues and creativity. Everyone with an UvA ID can vote for their top 3 (choose three different courses in order of appreciation) until 15 November. The five proposals with the most votes will reach the finals on 29 November at the Brug, Roeterseiland.

    The five ideas with the most votes are:

    1. Artificial Intelligence Safety

    Victor Zuanazzi 

    The course’s aim is to examine profound societal issues raised by the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and explore the approaches that AI researchers and policy makers  might solve them. It draws from key insights of economics, ethics, philosophy and law to  give the students a broad understanding of the possible impacts of an uncontrolled AI  development. 
    The  first  half  of  the  course examines  how the proliferation of AI systems introduces novel legal and policy  issues,  including  around  fairness,  economic  inequality,  and  international security.  We  will  examine  proposed  regulations,  e.g.  by  the  European

     Parliament,  that  provide individuals with  a right to explanations when decisions made by an AI agent affect them.  The  second  half explores the ways technical researchers are currently working to ensure the  to  align  AI  safely  with  human  objectives  as  well  as  speculations  about  what  directions research  in  the  area might take. Finally, we can also include a discussion of legal and philosophical work already being done that raises the possibility that AI agents could one day deserve rights or moral consideration. 

    2. Counter-thinking in contemporary society

    Vukasin Gligoric

    What if everything we are told has some fine print with it? Is human nature really selfish? Was the United States founded on principles of freedom and liberty? Could education be neutral and objective?

    The present course seeks to answer these questions using the critical approach of scrutinizing every idea by judging who benefits from the current, dominant view (consequences). Mainly, this course focuses on alternatives while counter-thinking these dominant ideas across various fields: on human nature in philosophy, capitalism in economics, liberalism in political theory. Additionally, it questions current practices in medicine, media, and education from a critical perspective. The course is not one of the critical thinking courses: it runs deeper as it counter-thinks. This multi-perspective approach necessary includes alternatives that could be appraised later.

    3. Favorable Futures

    Klaas Groen

    According to modern sociologist Anthony Giddens our modern society suffers from ‘design faults’. Reorganizing the structures underlining society can be a fruitful path to more favorable futures than the one we are heading towards now. Nevertheless, scientific and popular debate about fundamentally changing the base of our societies is almost nonexistent. This course can be a first start. We will discover multiple ways of alternative organization and their (dis)advantages by integrating insights from sociology, philosophy, political science, psychology, history, economics and literature, among others. These disciplines will be not treated separately, in the course they interact which makes the course truly interdisciplinary.

    During the course, participants will encounter not only mainstream but also non-western, ancient and unorthodox ideas and they will acquire key academic skills. Every meeting we are not solely learning more about the choices we can make about our possible society, but we will also reflect on which choice is deemed the most favorable. Therefore, the foundations of our own Utopia will emerge during our progression through the course. Both the teachers and the students will not know the endpoint of the enquiry from the start, which yields the possibility of new knowledge. The group project at the end of the course consists of designing a component of this possible society. The groups projects combine to be a proposal for our own ‘favorable future’.

    4. Biotechnologie van medicijn tot Frankenstein

    Nils Boonstra, Ida van Koolwijk, Tijmen Kuyper & Julie Maas

    Kweekvlees, CRISPR-Cas, AI loslaten op DNA-databases en genetisch knutselen: De mensheid begint grip en macht te krijgen over de genetica. BioTech belooft door middel van het manipuleren van biologische systemen onder andere genetische ziektes te laten verdwijnen, het voedselprobleem op te lossen en te helpen bij het creëren van een duurzame economie. Hoe zal biotechnologie de toekomst bepalen? Wat betekent dat voor onze maatschappij? Is het mogelijk biotechnologie in te zetten voor maatschappelijk belangrijke zaken die niet direct winstgevend zijn?

    BioTech wekt vaak angst of weerstand op, omdat de technologieën moeilijk te begrijpen zijn. Daarom is het juist belangrijk om deze vraagstukken trans-disciplinair te benaderen, omdat ook de mensen die geen technische kennis hebben onderdeel worden van de maatschappelijke gevolgen van BioTech. Reflecteren op de maatschappelijke gevolgen van biotechnologie is op zichzelf niet genoeg; de complexe technologieën moeten ook toegankelijk worden gemaakt voor een breder publiek. Gelukkig gebeurt dit beide tijdens dit vak: Studenten brengen hun kennis in de praktijk door deze om te zetten in workshops over hun zelfgekozen vraagstukken voor een breed publiek.

    5. Navigating the Post-Truth Internet

    Naina Parasher

    The course starts by teaching the basics of code, the objectivity beneath the coding structures and the lack of any sort of humanities input. I believe it is important to understand the code that runs the internet the objective algorithmic structure behind it. This is also explored through the side of communication sciences by understanding the basics of media marketing. That is then connected to the humanities side of things through media and film analysis, by looking at how things shown through media can manipulate us. This manipulation is explained through philosophies put forth by writers like Foucault. All this is connected to recent cases wherein the internet has managed to create an extreme political divide. Lastly, we present the Internet of Things and the environmental impacts of the internet of things.