Bram Klievink on the SMART and SHARED Cities minor: "This collaboration forces us to give all perspectives a place"

In the new academic year, the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Centre for BOLD Cities will introduce the minor SMART and SHARED Cities. In the minor, students will examine the smart city theme from various disciplines. Scientists from across the three universities, Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University, jointly developed the education programme. The programme consists of a combination of data science, public administration, urban studies and social sciences.


Bram Klievink, Professor of Digitalisation and Public Policy at Leiden University (Faculty of Governance & Global Affairs), is affiliated with the minor. He explains that the development of the minor SMART and SHARED Cities will create a real community between the three LDE universities, one in which administrative and technological developments in cities will be discussed side by side. This gives Klievink the opportunity to reflect on how this theme can find a place in education. "Developing a joint multidisciplinary education program is as much fun as it is educational."

Complicated urban themes

The minor highlights urban technology from various disciplines. Despite the differences across the areas of expertise, Klievink still finds it easy to interact with different experts: "This collaboration forces us to give all perspectives a place, not only within the programme, but also generally in relation to each other. This allows us to form a closer bond, consciously and unconsciously, because we share the same interests."

Many cities have started working on smart city developments - this has an actual effect on the urban environment, residents and public administration.

Klievink focuses on the administrative side of the smart city. He is developing the module 'Governing the smart city', together with Alex Ingrams, assistant professor of Public Administration. There are many parties involved in the development of a smart city, Klievink explains. "The structures and different concerns are not always clear from the outside. In recent times, many cities started working on smart city developments, but every city does things differently. Many concrete and tangible measures actually have a clear effect on the urban environment, the inhabitants and public administration. That is why we can make use of many practical examples in our module."

The module highlights complicated questions on urban governance by looking at the assumptions, ideas and dynamics of all players in the field. Klievink: "It is in the interpretation of various interests. We have to connect with the citizen and how we can strategically translate needs into concrete projects and the use of technology." 

Developments in education

Klievink and his colleagues have to take many things into account in their joint development of the minor. In addition to experimenting with new working methods, the teachers of the minor SMART and SHARED Cities deal with students from different educational backgrounds. In the minor courses, different perspectives must be incorporated without overlapping content between the modules. In order to properly achieve this goal, the development team started designing the curriculum, such as the learning objectives, teaching methods and examinations, well in advance. 'This way, we create a coherent story with this minor. This makes it a very conscious and valuable development process,' says Klievink.

Due to the corona crisis, the staff are forced to think about an online education programme. "This often takes us back to the core of our subjects. What do we want to teach the student? It is a crazy situation; it is the first time that this minor will be taught and yet we do not know what it will look like. Are we going to meet the students in person, or will it be entirely digital?"

Despite all the uncertainty, the development of the minor is progressing beyond expectations, Klievink says. "I have never had such a detailed weekly schedule so far in advance. We have enough tools to be off to a good start."