Foto: Robert Oosterbroek

Decision made: De Uithof to become Utrecht Science Park


Soon, the university won’t be located in De Uithof anymore, but at the Utrecht Science Park. This Thursday, the city council agreed to change the area’s official name. Student party Student & Starter tried to call for a poll among residents, but to no avail.

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More international allure, less confusion. That’s supposedly the added value of changing ‘De Uithof’, an official neighbourhood name, to ‘Utrecht Science Park’. The city administration’s proposal was accepted last Thursday when even GroenLinks, which had so far been in doubt about the decision, agreed to the plan.

The largest party in the council did stipulate one requirement: that Utrecht’s coalition will fight for better facilities, such as a supermarket, which many of De Uithof/Utrecht Science Park’s residents have been calling for. Additionally, the historical name ‘De Uithof’ should remain in one way or another, for instance by naming a street, square, or building after it.

International name
Utrecht University, Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, and UMC Utrecht have been calling for an end to the ‘De Uithof’ name for a while now. These institutions work together in the foundation Utrecht Science Park. For its own communication purposes, the UU had already chosen to use the name Utrecht Science Park in 2011.

In the past few years, other companies located in the area, such as Danone and Genmab, as well as student housing corporation SSH, joined the lobby. UU president Anton Pijpers says: “I’m happy with the city council’s decision. It helps us. Utrecht Science Park is not only the largest science park in the Netherlands, it’s also making a name internationally.”

No full-fledged neighbourhood
Student party Student & Starter voted against the idea. The main reason was the city administration’s refusal to research whether the students who live in the area support the name change. The student party filed a motion to call for a poll, but it was thrown out.

Student & Starter say De Uithof is still not seen as a full-fledged neighbourhood with residents who have their own wishes and interests. A study the party have conducted themselves says three quarters of students living in the student housing facilities at De Uithof want to keep the name De Uithof. “Imagine that, for whatever reason, we’d decide to change the name of a neighbourhood like Rivierenwijk. Wouldn’t it be unthinkable to not ask around amongst the local residents for their opinions?” says group leader Tim Homan.

The path of the name change wasn’t entirely smooth. Opposition parties like SP, PvdA, and PVV all voted against the proposition. In a poll conducted by the Utrecht edition of the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper, almost 90 percent of respondents claim to be against the name change. In the same newspaper, geographer Josse de Voogd warns the use of English terminology may cause division in society. “It’s purely a managers’ toy. It won’t do the regular Utrecht resident any good.”

The name De Uithof has been in use since the 1960’s. The first UU buildings were constructed in what was then the Johanna polder to the east of the city. The new university grounds were named after an old farm, called De Uithof, located at the Toulouselaan, which currently houses a daycare centre.

The name change will cost an estimated 400,000 euros, due to necessary actions such as changing road signs.

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