Utrecht University: Preparing for the next pandemic through strategic alliance

After the Spanish Flu, Covid-19 showed us again just how disrupting a pandemic can be. But there is strength in numbers. Therefore, Eindhoven University of Technology, Wageningen University & Research, Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht aligned themselves. To challenge future generations and to combine our expertise and the expertise of professionals to find solutions for societal issues. For example: training professionals to prepare for the next pandemic.

Sharing knowledge and experiences between professions, organisations and sectors is crucial in order for their practices to be aligned


Wieger Bakker, dean LifeLong Learning at Utrecht University
Surprised by Covid-19
If the Corona pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that we must be better prepared, says Wieger Bakker external link, dean LifeLong Learning at Utrecht University. Even though there was and is a lot of knowledge about pandemics and even though some organisations and professionals were and are trained on the subject, Covid-19 still surprised us. So, to prepare for the next pandemic it is important that the professionals and organisations involved in prevention and control are connected. Because the sharing of knowledge and experiences between professions, organisations and sectors is crucial in order for their practices to be properly aligned.

We want to share basic knowledge on the spread, prevention and control of infectious diseases with these professionals and improve the application of that knowledge within their professions.


Roos de Jonge, Curriculum Developer at UMC Utrecht
Interdisciplinary course ‘How to prepare for the next pandemic’
This is why the alliance Tu/e, WUR, UMC Utrecht external link, is developing and providing a short interdisciplinary course on ‘How to prepare for the next pandemic’ for a diverse group of professionals from relevant fields and sectors. Roos de Jonge external link, Curriculum Developer at UMC Utrecht, is responsible for the content of the course: The aim of this short course is firstly to share the basic knowledge on the spread, prevention and control of infectious diseases with these professionals, secondly to improve the application of that knowledge within their professions and, thirdly, to become acquainted how other sectors and other professions are confronted with a pandemic. For example, police officers, psychologists but also school leaders, municipal officials and event managers. Based on this, we can then discuss how we can organise our cooperation, how we can organise our society, in such a way that we are better prepared for the next pandemic.

Professionals are their own ‘living textbook’


Sarah de Vries, Instructional Designer Lifelong Learning at WUR
Knowledge transition
Sarah de Vries external link, Instructional Designer Lifelong Learning at WUR, is helping to design the course. We are creating several modules in which we share the latest researches and translating everything to the work field of professionals from all over the board. Stimulating knowledge transition is key here because professionals themselves possess a wealth of information. They are their own ‘living textbook’. This is why our courses centre around interaction and peer-to-peer feedback. Sharing that knowledge with others leads to new insights. And those new insights are essential, especially with a complex subject like Covid-19.

Shared approach to LifeLong Learning
Preparing for the next pandemic is not the only issue LifeLong Learning focuses on within the alliance. The plan is to set up more pilots and education focused on LLL to allow us to learn what works in cooperating together to build a better understanding for future approaches and projects. For example, citizen involvement in energy transition.

Eventually, the aim of the LLL-projects within the alliance is to develop a shared approach to LifeLong Learning through which we can both better accommodate professionals and optimise our societal impact as universities.

Combined expertise in teaching and learning
Chantal Brans external link, programme manager LifeLong Learning at Eindhoven University of Technology, explains: “We want to reach our goal by focussing firstly on the synergy and complementarity of our state-of-the-art knowledge in mutually shared domains and secondly on our combined expertise in teaching and learning. The alliance has a unique opportunity to propel the contribution of higher education to the development of LifeLong Learning.” For that reason, the project aims at realising a good offer of courses for professionals related to societal challenges, adapted to market needs and demands, while maintaining high academic quality standards.

Three goals for LifeLong Learning within the alliance:
Develop a joint portfolio for professionals related to the shared strategic themes (preventive health and circular society) where new materials and courses are developed in close collaboration and based on market & societal needs.
Build-up, identify and exchange experience and research evidence in the development and teaching for (working) professionals and apply this in courses and training for the alliance teaching and support staff. An additional goal is that teachers as well as support staff from the alliance institutions have a strong alliance network of fellow-teachers or fellow support staff with whom they exchange experiences and course materials after participating in training events.
Make use of each other’s existing courses (materials) for LLL, related to the shared strategic themes.

Continuing Education at Utrecht University
Our Continuing Education focuses on professionals with academic training questions and is directly linked to research and education at Utrecht University. By developing educational programmes together with the professional field, UU helps professionals to identify problems and learn how to work on solutions using today’s knowledge.

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