Webster Leiden Campus: Humanising International Relations
Webster Leiden Campus is an American university based in Leiden. Their mission in the Netherlands is to enrich the lives of global citizens by offering a flexible, innovative and practical education in a culturally diverse setting.
An emphasis on Human Rights
International Relations as a discipline was founded after WWI and extended after WWII, because of questions about international security. Today, it is about Human Rights.
For instance, environmental issues around the globe are a matter of Human Rights. It’s about people’s rights to live on a healthy planet. The refugee situation in Europe, the travel ban in the US; both are directly related to Human Rights.
This is why at Webster’s International Relations programmes the emphasis lies on exactly that: Human Rights.
The International Relations programmes at Webster Leiden Campus
Webster offers both undergraduate (International Relations BA) and graduate programmes (International Relations MA) in International Relations. Both are designed to prepare students for leadership and service in the international community.
Undergraduate programmes: Minor in Human Rights
While there is already a main focus on Human Rights in both programmes, in the future it will be possible to get a minor in Human Rights when students are completing a bachelor's degree at Webster University.
For now, students can receive an International Human Rights Certificate when completing 6 courses from Human Rights fields, including the Human Rights Field Experience as one of the core courses. Last Spring Semester, one of the students in this course created a video on the value of internships in Webster’s programmes. This video is a great example of concrete field work, taking place outside of the classroom.
Graduate programmes: Master in International Human Rights
Next year, January 2018, Webster hopes to offer a brand new master’s degree which will focus on Human Rights, called Master in International Human Rights. It will take an interdisciplinary approach to human rights in theory and practice, looking at a wide range of fields such as history, international affairs, international law, global business and advocacy.
Webster’s new approach to International Relations: Glocal Citizenship
Webster University’s main mission has always been to transform its students into global citizens. However, this is no longer enough.
Dr. Nives Rumenjak, Lecturer and Coordinator of International Relations at Webster Leiden University explains:
“What we are trying to do, is to not only have a global perspective but to have a local perspective as well. If you fail to understand local people, local citizens, you cannot be successful in forwarding the agenda of global citizenship.
You can’t be a citizen in a country, for example, a citizen of the Netherlands, and don’t care about the rest of the world. It’s just impossible. Why? Because you can’t stop globalisation. It’s not optional. Globalisation will go on.
People are frustrated with issues of globalisation, so we have this new political divide. What used to be a question of are you left or right on the political spectrum has become a question of are you for or against globalisation? But you can’t afford to be against because you cannot stop it. So, you have to learn how to deal with it.
And this is why the concept of glocalisation is important. Be aware of what’s happening in your country and how it will interfere and be relevant to what’s going on globally and vice versa. There is a mutual impact of both positions, global and local.
People must consciously be educated that it’s not enough to only know about your local, national problems and issues, but at the same time, you must be involved in what’s going on globally.
Rather than close your eyes, ask how we can educate ourselves to be able to respond to this development. Rather than being frustrated with globalisation, ask how we can better understand globalisation, and how we can contribute, so that globalisation benefits us.”
Webster introduces this new concept of glocal citizenship in its International Relations programmes through experiential learning. Students of both the undergraduate and graduate programmes often take field trips to international organisations, such as tribunals and courts in The Hague, the Humanity House or ProDemos. Dr. Rumenjak clarifies:
“I teach an undergraduate course called Comparative Politics. This summer, we went to talk with Hans Spekman, chairman of PVDA (Dutch Labour party). We went to their headquarters in Amsterdam and organised a private session for our students for field research.
The students had the opportunity to collect information, to conduct an interview with Hans, and that was something very unique. So, in the classroom, we discussed political concepts and democratic institutions in a global perspective which is seminal in Comparative Politics, but then they learnt on-site through field research about local politics in the Netherlands.”
Students of the Comparative Politics class in front of the Humanity House in The Hague
Teaching current events
At the International Relations programme at Webster Leiden Campus, students are taught cutting-edge and relevant topics.
For example, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January 2015, Dr. Rumenjak discussed political cartooning and freedom of expression in the classroom. And she feels that this is one of Webster’s International Relations programme's significant features:
“We teach what is going on currently. Students are taught real-world events and processes. Directly in the classroom. This is something we are proud of; that we teach what is going on in the world today.”
Study Abroad and Worldwide Programmes
Webster’s main campus is located in St. Louis in Missouri in the United States, but there are many international campuses. The campus in Leiden is one of them, but Webster also has campuses in Geneva (Switzerland), Vienna (Austria), Athens (Greece), Accra (Ghana), Beijing and Shanghai (China), and Bangkok (Thailand).
Undergraduates can make use of Webster’s Study Abroad programme.
The Global Master in International Relations programme makes it possible for graduate students to complete their degree while rotating through Webster’s 7 international campuses, making the International Relations programme truly global!
The teachers: Professionals & internationals
The people who teach the International Relations programmes at Webster are professionals and scholars from international organisations in The Hague and Amsterdam. This is very important, says Dr. Rumenjak:
“We have people who work at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia or at The Hague Institute for Global Justice. It is so important for our students that they are learning from people in the field.
So, we have a very strong network of professionals. All of the teachers have international backgrounds. In our case, this is a significant feature. I would say we are a little bit more diverse and international than other programmes at other universities in the Netherlands.”
Students who have studied International Relations at Webster University go on to have great careers in international organisations all over the world, such as the UN network, the OPCW, the Peace Corps, the US Department of State, embassies or non-governmental organisations such as Oxfam Novib etc.
Sometimes they even get a job before they are finished, according to Dr. Rumenjak:
“Even before they finish our programme, many students are getting employed. Particularly, master’s degree students. Very often through their internship experiences, these students have built a great network and have found a job in the Netherlands or elsewhere.”