Moving towards a better place

Practical science

Turn on the tv at any moment of the day, and chances are the political hot-button topic of our times is on. Migration.


NAME: Peter Scholten
CAREER: Associate Professor Public Policy & Politics

Erasmus University is researching migration through several faculties. A recent initiative is the Erasmus Migration & Diversity Institute (EMDI). It still needs fleshing out. ‘Our goal is to bring all kinds of university disciplines together,’ says doctor Peter Scholten (Public Administration) with gusto. ‘ISS, Public Administration, History, Law, Media studies and Erasmus Medical Centre all play their own parts. For instance, Erasmus MC can offer knowledge about ethnic-specific medical conditions.’ Scholten says the institute has a wide variety of goals. It’s not about scientific research as a goal unto itself, it’s about translating that knowledge into good practice. ‘We are collaborating closely with the city of Rotterdam. The city itself is a case study, and we’ll team up to raise funds. Our relations with city hall are well established, since Rotterdam municipality stands to benefit from our research. For instance, how do you make sure Polish migrants register as residents instead of staying somewhere illegally? There’s no way of dealing with the housing issues of any particular group until you know where they live.’

How others solve issues

January 1st sees the start of the new databank, Migration Research Hub, run by Scholten. ‘The Google of migration research,’ he clarifies. On top of that he will represent the university as director of IMISCOE (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe) until 2022. It’s the most extensive academic research institute network in Europe that concerns itself with migration. Scholten: ‘Last spring, we hosted the IMISCOE conference for the first time. It garnered a lot of attention, from policy makers with the Ministery of Security & Justice to name a few. They’re curious to see what they can learn from their counterparts in other countries.’
Migrants in Germany without a residence permit can accept internships, for instance. ‘While asylum seekers in the Netherlands are sitting around, because they’re not allowed to work. The Netherlands could learn a thing or two from those German policies.’

Field research

Any new knowledge isn’t simply shared with peers, Erasmus University wants to transfer it to a new generation of academics as well. That’s why last year a master Governance of Migration and Diversity was initiated, in close collaboration with Leiden and Delft. Master students are encouraged to move beyond their lecture halls and experience everyday practice. ‘We visited asylum centres, and the Rotterdam Essalam mosque. In The Hague, students met up with residents of the Transvaal neighbourhood to study the street layout. It has all kinds of squares and basketball courts that make it easier for people to meet.’ Over half of the master students is not local, Scholten says. ‘They’re from all over Europe, the US, South-America, Asia and Africa. Two refugees even enrolled.’

TEXT: Sjoerd Wielenga
PHOTO: Jochem Sanders

Peter Scholten