the network university

The Network University - Background

Who we are
The Network University (TNU) is a Dutch foundation (not for profit), which aims to provide advanced academic on-line programmes to a worldwide constituency of students and professionals. It brings together researchers, experts, and professionals coming from diverse universities, international organisations, NGOs, national governments, and research institutions from different disciplinary, social and geographic backgrounds.

What we do
TNU provides opportunities to develop and participate in on-line education, debates and networking in order to generate new insights on some of the key challenges facing society today. It focuses on programmes, which do not only lead to the transfer of knowledge, but also contribute to common knowledge creation by the participants. The emphasis in our projects lies on development issues and social change.

Why we do it
TNU triggers an active interdisciplinary exchange of information, knowledge and practices at the international, regional and local levels encouraging social transformation. TNU brings together participants from a broad range of different institutions, by creating an on-line platform with opportunities to actively learn, interact and encounter new ways of thinking. TNU aims to:

  • Provide access to high quality on-line education
  • Reach an international audience, whilst specifically encouraging participation from developing countries
  • Encourage universities and other institutions to play an active role in on-line learning
  • Develop alternative models of education focusing on collaborative knowledge creation rather than just the transfer of existing knowledge

The philosophy of The Network University is premised on a belief in innovative approaches to education and communication created when the full potential of information technologies is used and harnessed. On-line courses from TNU are offered to groups, however people can subscribe individually. Participants are offered personal guidance and expertise and are guided through information that is structured in a multi-layered way. This enables individuals to choose their own path of learning adapted to their specific needs, taking into consideration their personal knowledge, competences, interests and background. This works on the premise that on-line educational experiences should be able to be easily adapted and further developed in face-to-face meetings and in related research projects or action oriented activities.

Collaborative learning
TNU works on the principle that "many cooks improve the broth". By bringing people together on-line, TNU believes that it should not only educate its participants, but also teach them to learn in multicultural teams. This means that participants not only engage with the material but also with each other in joint assignments and discussions. The role of the coach is therefore an important one. Each course has its own coach who is not only an expert on the topic but also trained in on-line communication and teaching. Because of accessibility of participants from developing countries, all courses are built in a way that they can be accessed with a telephone modem.

Network of co-producers of knowledge
TNU applies the concept of 'collaborative learning' also to its own way of working. TNU actively seeks cooperation with other organisations in order to both learn from them and to constantly improve its own service offering. By continuously starting new, innovative, exciting projects with likeminded organisations TNU is itself constantly involved in its own learning process. This assists us in staying on the forefront of market developments.

One of the strengths of TNU is our ability to combine a strong knowledge of content related issues to a robust ability to translate ideas into technical solutions. In order to be able to create and facilitate on-line projects, TNU has developed a number of innovative, on-line software applications. It has build its own Learning Environment and discussion platform. TNU has its own technical department able to conceptualise, build and implement diverse web development projects.

History and profile TNU's activities commenced in 1998 at the Department of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam, where it offered its first academic on-line programme. Since then it has quickly developed into a recognised, innovative centre for collaborative learning. Since 1999, TNU enjoys an institutional independency as a foundation established under Dutch Law. In 2000, TNU also became responsible for the publication of the quarterly magazine "Biotechnology and Development Monitor", edited in close cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and distributed to over 6000 subscribers worldwide (

In realising its activities The Network University has established co-operation with:

  • universities
  • training institutes
  • research institutes
  • governmental and non-governmental organisations
  • foundations, and
  • companies

How we do it
TNU has developed expertise in six main knowledge domains, these are:

  • International Politics
  • Networked Economy
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Biotechnology and Sustainable Development
  • ICT Skills for Educational and Research Purposes
  • Ecological Sanitation

TNU has developed a range of activities that are focused around these knowledge domains and aimed at generating new knowledge and insights and to then ensure that these are spread throughout the participating networks. These activities include the creation of:

  • on-line courses (see
  • on-line debates (for an example see
  • specific workshops combining on-line and face-to-face learning experiences
  • consultancy on e-learning
  • concept development and implementation.

In applying its activities to the content-based areas of expertise, TNU ensures a result that is tailor-made to suit the particular target audience and that is focused on achieving the appropriate form of learning, debating and/or action building.