The most surprising appointment: the famous physicist Robert Dijgraf becomes Minister of Higher Education

The most surprising appointment: the famous physicist Robert Dijgraf becomes Minister of Higher Education

Robbert Dijkgraaf at the VPRO Season Show in November 2021.Beeld ANP / ANP Kippa

Thierry Baudt was the first to come up with his name. During the formation of the previous cabinet, in 2017, a completely new member of parliament proposed the creation of a non-political business cabinet. Physicist Robert Dijgraf seemed like a good ministerial candidate for the education position of the FvD leader, he told Detective Edith Schippers.

Four years later, Baudet is still making his way, although he may no longer wait for him. Dijkgraaf is a staunch advocate of scientific freedoms that the Baudets Forum for Democracy increasingly opposes. In 2019, for example, Dijkgraf spoke out publicly against the ‘indoctrination hotline’ through which the forum wanted to start a witch hunt against left-wing professors and university lecturers. Djgraf responded at the time as a “completely wrong initiative”. According to him, university education and academic freedom benefit from a “plurality of opinions”.

Baudette’s “Owl van Minerva” victory speech after the Dijkgraaf provincial elections also irked. According to Dijgraf, Baudette’s comment that “our universities are undermining us” was “absolutely untrue”. “The great thing about knowledge is that it is always positive,” he said on Radio 1 “Science undermines biased ideas.”


As the VVD distributes its eight ministerial positions to the party’s dyed tigers in the political sphere, D66 emerges more daring and innovative. With Ernst Kuipers and Robbert Dijkgraaf, the party evokes two top hat bunnies. Both get a seat in Triffesal because of their professional record, not because of their proven loyalty to their party.

62-year-old Dijkgraaf is perhaps the most famous member of the upcoming government team. Surprisingly, the D66 didn’t get very close to it, but Dijkgraaf accepts the offer. He gives up a prestigious job in the United States for it. Since 2012, Dijkgraaf has been the Director of one of the most important research institutes in the world: The Institute of Advanced Studies Affiliated with Princeton University.

Born Ridderkerker, a physicist of international stature, famous for his contribution to the development of string theory. This field of theoretical physics seeks to bridge the gap between Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and the quantum mechanics of Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. In 2003 he was awarded the Spinoza Prize, the highest Dutch scientific award.

People with beta brains are rare in politics. Especially beta-caliber dicograph. But this particular career move does not come out of nowhere. Dijkgraaf loves to engage in public debate. In this regard, he mirrors himself with Hendrik Lorentz, his “favorite scientist”. Like Dijkgraaf, this Dutch Nobel laureate and physicist, who inspired Einstein, made an effort to popularize the exact sciences. Lorentz also did not hide in his scientific institute, but he was socially and politically committed.

the great explosion

Dijkgraaf gained national fame in the Netherlands as a guest at the table of Matthijs van Nieuwkerk in The world goes on. In the transverse series DWDD University Explain complex physical principles such as the Big Bang, infinity and the theory of relativity in an infectious way to a wide audience. In 2005 he was allowed to Zomrgast be.

During his frequent visits to his homeland, he likes to join talk shows to express his concern about the deteriorating level of Dutch education. Dijkgraaf for years has called for the government to allocate more money to basic scientific research, especially in experimental sciences. He warns that the fact that the Netherlands has produced a lot of famous physicists is due to the policies of the previous government. That fertile soil was now gone. According to him, the Netherlands is in danger of losing its leading position in science now that Dutch universities have to train more and more students, but receive very little extra money for it.

As Minister of Education (Higher) he would soon be in an ideal position to free himself from this discomfort. In 2017, members of the then Cabinet called for an additional €1 billion for science. Rutte IV’s Alliance Agreement gives him five. Dijkgraf seems to want to come back for it, and get into a showdown with Bodet in the House.

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