[Announcement] Academic director Janne E. Nijman: “This is a good time to step down, the Asser Institute is well-positioned for the future.”

Published 11 April 2022

Janne E. Nijman, academic director and chairperson of the executive board of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut since 2015 - Image credit: Hilko Visser

At the end of this academic year, Janne E. Nijman will step down as chairperson of the executive board and academic director of the T.M.C. Asser Institute. Under her leadership, Nijman successfully repositioned the Asser Institute as an internationally recognised research institute for international and European law, where excellent fundamental research goes hand in hand with the ambition to impact practice- and policy-oriented discussions. The Institute also intensified collaboration with the Amsterdam Law School, leading to the conclusion of a new cooperation agreement with the University of Amsterdam that sets the course for 2020-2030. Nijman leaves the Institute well-positioned for a successful future.  

Nijman looks back on her years at the Asser Institute with great pleasure: “The Asser Institute is a truly unique place as a research institute for international and European law right at the heart of the City of Peace and Justice. I am very grateful for having been trusted with the leadership of the Institute at a crucial moment and for having been able to work with excellent and committed colleagues, as well as with many national and international partners. Together we have worked hard to transform the Institute into the inspiring and dynamic research institute it is today: a proud member of the UvA family. It has been an exciting seven and a half years. When I started in 2015, I was resolved to stay seven to eight years, in line with standards of good governance. That said, I will dearly miss the Institute and all with whom I collaborated so well throughout the years. At the same time I look forward to being able to invest more time directly into research and teaching upon my return to the Amsterdam Law School.”

Liesbeth Lijnzaad, chairperson of the supervisory board of the Asser Institute, has praised Janne’s leadership throughout her term of office: “On behalf of the supervisory board of the Asser Institute, we’d like to thank Janne for her hard work, that has elevated the Institute to the level of reputation and academic excellence it enjoys today. We greatly appreciate her many achievements, and in particular her zeal in ensuring that Asser’s research has focussed on contemporary problems, addressing these in often innovative ways. She has further developed the standard of legal research in the Institute and must be commended for this.”

Also on behalf of the staff of the Institute, managing director Gert Grift would like to thank Janne Nijman for her leadership and to wish her well in her future endeavours: “Janne Nijman has been a highly valued member of our Board; she has always kept a sharp eye on the academic repositioning as well as on the Institute’s societal role. With wisdom, unlimited energy and enthusiasm, Janne has guided all members of the Asser Institute community to individually contribute to our Institute’s mission.”

After a research leave which she will spend, in part, in Cambridge (UK), Nijman will resume her academic research as professor of History and Theory of International Law at the University of Amsterdam, and spend more time in her role as professor of International Law at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva. In line with her ever-present interest in making a positive social impact she will continue to serve in a number of non-executive board functions in the public sector.

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Growing into a world-class international and European law research institute
When she joined the board in 2015, Janne Nijman’s central objective was for the Asser Institute to become an academic research institute that would contribute to the development of international and European law by conducting outstanding fundamental research, securing more funding for fundamental and applied research, and linking commissioned project work to the Institute’s research. Beyond that central objective she also looked to enhance the Institute’s national and international visibility and to secure the Institute’s future.  

Realising the value of a Hague-based research centre on international and European law, Nijman set out to engage in a continuous dialogue with the Institute’s stakeholders: international organisations, embassies, NGOs, legal advisers and policy makers; she set up many new academic and societal partnerships. Convinced that we need law to confront the many societal challenges facing us - such as climate change, terrorism, corporate crime and unchecked technologies - Nijman has aimed to bring ‘critical thinking to power’. Under her guidance, the Institute developed further as the go-to place for highly topical events, training- and capacity-building programmes and applied research. The Annual T.M.C. Asser Lecture in the Peace Palace, launched in 2015, has become a successful platform for critical, multidisciplinary and constructive reflection on the role of law in today’s radically changing global society.

Combining excellence with societal relevance
Early 2021, an independent committee of experts assessed the Asser Institute leadership as ‘excellent’ in a highly positive evaluation of the Institute’s research quality, its societal outreach and relevance, and the viability of the Asser Institute. According to the evaluating committee, Nijman’s strategic vision of combining academic excellence with societal relevance has clearly been achieved. The period under assessment (2016-2020) has showed a steady increase in top-tier academic publications, and the researchers of the Asser Institute have produced a significant number of excellent publications.

The committee further praised the dynamic research culture of the Institute and the way in which it had enhanced its international reputation through high-level scholarship and strategic international alliances. The committee concluded that ‘[t]he Asser Institute is now an academic research institute (…) that has the standing to compete with the best and largest departments on international and European law at law faculties in the Netherlands.’ The committee further rated the Asser Institute’s societal relevance as ‘very good’, and noted that it had been successful in obtaining funding for cutting-edge research projects: ‘As a result of successful acquisition, there are a large number of high-quality projects with great academic output as well as high societal relevance, which is immensely impressive for a medium-size research institute.’

In 2021, Nijman led the development of the Asser Institute’s new strategic research agenda for 2022-2026, entitled: Rethinking public interests in international and European law; pairing critical reflection with perspectives for action.

Ten year framework | a solid financial future
In October 2020, the UvA and the Asser Institute have joined forces in a new cooperation agreement, which established a ten-year framework for increased cooperation between the two organisations – and with UvA’s Amsterdam Law School in particular. The new cooperation agreement enhances collaboration in research and postgraduate and professional education, and secures the University of Amsterdam’s annual funding level for the next ten years.

Otherwise the Asser Institute has solidified its position as inter-university research network broker and has taken up the coordination of the Netherlands Network for Human Rights Research (NNHRR), of which currently all Dutch law schools are institutional members. Nijman has set up a visiting research fellow programme and started a collaboration with the Shelter City Programme of Justice & Peace to host legal practitioners who fight against human rights violations in their home countries.

Janne Nijman will continue to perform her duties until June 30. The appointment process for her successor is underway. 

Are you interested in driving and shaping high-quality research in international and European Law? We are now receiving applications for the post of Academic Director of the Asser Institute, please have a look and share this exciting opportunity within your network.