HKUs history

HKU University of the Arts Utrecht was established over thirty years ago. HKU started off with three faculties, but has now grown into one of the largest educational institutions for art and culture in Europe.

The beginnings

In the mid-eighties, computers became popular in the arts, and HKU was one of the pioneers in this area. It wasn’t long before the Visual and Media Technology course was set up. In the meantime, Utrechts Conservatorium was cautiously experimenting with electronic music. In September 1987, the first students enrolled on the innovative Music Technology course.

HKU’s first years

In the mid-eighties, computers became popular in the arts, and HKU was one of the pioneers in this area. It wasn’t long before the Visual and Media Technology course was set up. In the meantime, Utrechts Conservatorium was cautiously experimenting with electronic music. In September 1987, the first students enrolled on the innovative Music Technology course.

A fourth faculty: Art, Media & Technology

On 1 January 1989, HKU established a fourth faculty: Art, Media & Technology. Besides the pathways Visual and Media Technology and Music Technology, the new faculty also housed the Audiovisual Media course. The faculty moved into a building in Hilversum, the media city of the Netherlands.

HKU in the nineties

The early nineties saw the addition of many new courses. The Faculty of Theatre, for example, focused not only on courses for drama teachers, but also on training performing artists, on the courses Acting, Writing for Performance and Theatre Design. And at the Faculty of Art, Media & Technology, the first batch of students started on Interaction Design. The forerunner of the present School of Art and Economics, the Interfaculty, was established in 1990. Over the years, the Arts Management course grew into the four-year higher professional education course, Art and Economics.

Technological developments

ICT is an important focus for HKU. At the end of the nineties, all students were given their own HKU e-mail address. They could also save their work to a central server, and everyone could access around fifty film clips and animations, and around forty compositions, through the HKU website.

HKU in the noughties

In 2005, the first students graduated from the Game courses. And in 2007, HKU celebrated its twentieth anniversary!

Creative entrepreneurship

As far as job opportunities go, the creative sector is now bigger than agriculture, as shown in the 2006 report from the Dutch government “Our creative capacity”. We put an emphasis on creative entrepreneurship, as that’s where our opportunities lie! So in 2008, HKU opened the Centre for Entrepreneurship in the Creative Industry, the forerunner of today’s HKU X. The goal was ‘for all HKU students to graduate with an enterprising attitude, to start their own business during their studies and to receive support in developing their independent entrepreneurship’.

2010-2017

A lot changed in the 2010’s, especially with regard to HKU’s organisation. The faculties made way for nine schools, and the four expertise centres and professorships were set up. The premises of the Faculty of Art, Media & Technology, in Hilversum, were sold and new premises created at Oudenoord and at the unique industrial heritage site Pastoe Fabriek. The aim was to bring all the HKU locations to Utrecht and thus create a city campus.

Besides the faculties, HKU also got rid of its definite article. After 25 years, ‘the HKU’ would now be known as ‘HKU’. These changes were reflected in a new house style and a new slogan: ‘The art of HKU: new practices, new solutions’.
In September 2011, the first class of students started on Musician 3.0, a new course at HKU Utrechts Conservatorium.

HKU turns thirty!

In 2017, HKU celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with a festive opening of its new headquarters at Nieuwekade. In 2017, HKU had over 4000 students, for whom it completed the city campus. From this year on, all the HKU locations (except the Netherlands Carillon School) were situated in Utrecht, thus reinforcing the links with the city and its inhabitants.

What's next?

Predictions for the future are difficult. For example, who could have predicted the advances in Online and Blended Learning, as a consequence of Covid-19?
 
In 2022, HKU will be celebrating its 35th anniversary. We’ll have to wait and see what form that will take. Maybe it’s best to listen to the advice of Alan Kay (the inventor of the programming language Smalltalk): ‘The best way to predict the future is to invent it.’