University Pioneers


Utrecht University (UU) has included as one of its core goals in the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan the pursuit of a diverse and international community. Also in the 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, UU has again committed to encourage comprehensive reporting of diversity data to understand the student and staff population by gender, migration background, socio-economic background, LGBTQ+ and disability.

Diversity, Enrolment & Selection

To achieve this, a team (Diversity, Enrolment & Selection) has been launched to focus on student recruitment, intercultural skills of faculty and students and global awareness in education. To achieve a diverse community of students, it is important that all students feel welcome at the university and that conditions are created in which all students can develop their talents.

Vice dean and professor Leoniek Wijngaards

Professor Leoniek Wijngaards has conducted extensive research on the topic of first-generation students. We would therefore like to refer you to her personal page, where you will find an overview of all her publications on this topic. She also developed a report for UU on “Enrolment and progression in the context of a diverse student population: Diversity in enrollment, and study success of different groups”. This report is accompanied by a monitor developed by Lientje Maas.

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“Beyond research, we need to recognise and value education, leadership and team spirit to create a culture where diverse talents can flourish.”

– Prof Leoniek Wijngaards, oration 15 September 2021


In the context of maintaining and obtaining a diverse community, it is important for Utrecht University to gain insight into the composition of the university’s student population in the past and present and into the course of the students’ study process. A monitor has therefore been developed to provide insight into the composition of the student population and possible interventions accordingly.

Scientific publications

There are several researchers at UU and other universities in the Netherlands conducting research on first-generation students. Do you have a study that should be highlighted here? Send us an e-mail!

  • Dr Jenny Veldman is a social psychology researcher on social identity, stigma and educational/organisational inequality.
    • “Social Background Concealment among First-Generation Students: The Role of Social Belonging and Academic Achievement Concerns”, access here.
    • “A social identity perspective on the social-class achievement gap: Academic and social adjustment in the transition to university”, access here.

“Rennen in de buitenbocht” (En: Running on the far end of the curve)

Mick Matthys is former programme director of the master’s programme for professionals Management and Communication at the Department of Management and Organisational Science (USBO) at Utrecht University. Doorzetters (EN: Go-getters) was his doctoral thesis and was also published in translation by Routledge (Cultural Capital, Identity and Social Mobility, 2013). After his retirement, he conducted research at VU University (Amsterdam) on the life course and motivation of first-generation students and published several articles on themes from his thesis.

In 2021, Mick Matthys published the book Rennen in de buitenbocht. Sociale stijgers uit het (gast)arbeidsmilieu aan het woord over studie, loopbaan en identiteit (EN: Social risers from the (guest) working-class environment talking about study, career and identity). It is a revised, updated and expanded edition of his successful book Doorzetters (2010), in which thirty-three Dutch and Flemish university graduates from working-class backgrounds tell their stories. Mick Matthys asked the same questions, ten years later, to university graduates from the migrant workers’ milieu. They tell of their ambitions and perseverance but also of their loneliness and doubts about who they actually belong to. By adding their stories, Mick Matthys gives an even more complete picture of the (unequal) opportunities of social risers.

“They don’t have the right networks and social codes. The go-getters make it.”

– Mick Matthys, ScienceGuide 12 April 2010

Published articles

If you are further interested in first-generation students and their experiences, we have a reading list of all published articles ready for you. You can find it here:

More info