Tuesday, 12 June 2018


In the previous blog I promised to continue sharing my experience with the interdisciplinary honors programme. Last time, I talked about what I studied at Graduate Honours Interdisciplinary Seminars GHIS, which I called the first component of GHIS. Now, I'll continue with the second component of GHIS which consists mainly of  the research proposal and a trip to Heidelberg. 
The second component of GHIS was the fourth and last block. The block started off by a three day journey to the beautiful city of Heidelberg. The city trip revolved around a conference at the university of Heidelberg and some other social activities. The conference was about interdisciplinarity and the role of the university; how are universities ought to be? Also, we were challenged to come up with interdisciplinary approaches towards specific societal issues. The conference was lead by professor Burke, the dean of the honors program along with other prominent scholars who touch upon interdisciplinarity in their respective work. Also, there was a number of PhD candidates who joined us from the University of Heidelberg, and whose respective dissertations are based on interdisciplinarity. On our part we interacted well with everybody and left a good impression about GHIS and Utrecht University. We, moreover, presented our ideas.There I realized the strength of Utrecht University, really.  
The trip was not as dry as it may sound now, we had so much fun -I actually now realize that I should've dedicated a whole blog to this trip- we went out for an interesting walk onto the Heidelberg mountains -philosopher's walk. Additionally, we had an amazing hike to Heidelberg castle, and much more during the evenings. 

This was all to prepare us mentally and professionally to  the 'research project' that we had to do. Upon our return we had a couple of meetings more at which we discussed our projects and presented them. By then the cohort was already split into 9 groups and each group was tasked to come up with an interdisciplinary research proposal. In the fourth and last session every group presented their work in the form of a scientific poster. Overall it was awesome.
The last component of GHIS, which is purely my experience, is the embedded learning aspects of the programme. Those can be explained by two words that are peculiar to GHIS; Internationalism and Integration. For me, these were the most fruitful aspects of the programme. Mixing and chatting with people from other countries, cultures and disciplines in an academic discourse is truly indispensable. Everybody was open to share their background; they shared a lot of stories and experiences with me, and I of course was also happy to share my experiences, especially the ones that took place in Egypt. 

In the end, I think GHIS, interdisciplinarity in particular, is an umbrella under which students, scholars or practitioners from various disciplines can meet, discuss and learn from each other. This multifaceted approach towards problems has proven to me to be a powerful tool by which complex issues can be tackled. Now, I feel I am equipped with an extra and creative lens through which I can tackle problems that I deal with in my field. I feel I become more creative in my discipline; Law.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Graduate Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars GHIS

I am a GHIS graduate! Just three days ago the graduation ceremony for GHIS has taken place in the marvelous 'Aula' hall at the Academiegebouw of the Utrecht University. The event was attended by a number of formidable professors who taught us throughout the academic year, among them was the rector magnificus of Utrecht University, prof. Kummeling.  
Indeed each of us was allowed to bring their families and friends, overall it was a great experience. I myself invited and was pleasured with the presence of my fiance and my best friend. When surrounded with those people success is feasible and enjoyable. 
For this occasion, I decided to dedicate this blog and the next for sharing my experiences and thoughts about GHIS, but before doing so I'd like to present some informatiom about GHIS.
First of all, GHIS is an honours programme for Master students who wish to do extra effort next to their Master's. In other words, or in the words of the Honours dean, GHIS is for those 'more-able' students who constantly strive for more. 
Second, GHIS, which stands for Graduate Honours Interdisciplinary Seminars is about Interdisciplinarity; in a nutshell Interdisciplinarity involves combining two or more academic disciplines into one. In other words, it is the annexes between two bodies of knowledge or it is using multiple ideas to get one result, i.e. a researcher who combines two disciplines, or a team that consists of a group of researchers from different disciplines/backgrounds. In this case GHIS is the second type.
Third, the programme practically consists of two main components, but yet it has various embedded learning aspects as I will be discussing here and in the next blog. 
The first component of GHIS is the 'seminars'. The idea of such seminars is to expose us to a variety of  studies and disciplines. In principle nobody is allowed to attend courses related to their discipline or study. As to myself, in block one I selected and was admitted to the philosophy seminars which  was taught by the famous Prof. dr. Rosi Braidotti. In the second block I attended a very unique and reviving subject called 'Complex Systems' which was presented to us by three professors from Biology, Physics and Sociology whom introduced us to this notion of complex systems, and inspired us with how they apply it in their respective disciplines. Also they guided us on how we could do the same when we get back to our disciplines. I suggest you Google it, and if you apply for this programme in the next years you must apply for this seminar.  
In, the third block I attended the Dynamics of Youth, which was not less fascinating, but yet we did some sort of field work. In all three seminars, I had to do an assignment in the form of a written paper or a presentation. These were my choices and yet there were many other appealing ones. As I am limited to certain amount of words, I will continue this in the next week's blog. I will talk about the three remaining points; the second component of GHIS which consists of  the research proposal and the trip to Heidelberg. Then I'll expand on the embedded learning aspects of GHIS, and in the end, I will present some personal reflections about GHIS and interdisciplinarity.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Legal Research Master's Conference Committee; Empathy On Trial

Similar to Hogwarts, the Legal Research Master's is divided into four committees/houses, each bearing the name of its main task: Lecture Committee, Study Trip Committee, the Advisory Committee, and of course the Conference Committee. By the beginning of each LRM year, every student, upon their choice and motivation, gets to be allocated in one of these four committees. Fortunately, I was allocated in the LRM Conference committee =>, and I am glad to share my experiences as well as the topic of this year. 

Generally speaking, in each committee students collaborate and organize activities. We do tasks where we have to work closely together, and arrange regular meetings. That works well as we already know each other quite well and if, for example, any of us has a nice idea, they can always put it forward for discussion. For me, this kind of activity gives an extra dimension to our study as each day offers a new challenge, demanding us to think of new ideas, solve different types of issues and work together. Also, it makes me feel that education itself is more enjoyable and more interesting. 

Essentially, my committee the Conference Committee organizes a legal conference every year. As organizers we get to enjoy the perks that come with it, such as choosing the overall theme of the conference, inviting renowned speakers (and have dinner with them!) and, of course, boosting our CVs. Other responsibilities range from organizing lunches and dinners, arranging transportation and accommodation for the international speakers, to promoting the event across Europe. 

This year our conference is titled “Empathy on Trial" and it will take place next month on the 13th of April. The discussion will revolve around how the field of Law and Literature regards the role and relevance of empathy in legal education and practice. For the speakers, we invited a variety of renowned scholars, such as Prof. Dr. Jeanne Gaakeer (Erasmus University), Marco Wan (Hong Kong University) and Emma Jones (Open University). 

You as well are welcome to attend, check the Utrecht University event page; you can find more information about the speakers and the program:

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Top rated Maters in Law, say no more!

I am very proud, as the recent news has shown that the Legal Research Masters is rated as top rated masters in the Netherlands 2018. For that reason we were gathered by the LRM dean to celebrate and enjoy eating cakes. Thanks to the dean's efforts, the professors and of course the hard working students to make that success happen; congratulations to all. The results are based on the Keuzgids’ survey published on the 8th of March about master's rating. The survey has shown that the LRM has achieved a score of 94 out of a 100! This score also places the LRM as the best legal research master's in the Netherlands and provides a corresponding quality seal -shown below- for information communication. 

As the university's news describes it, the Keuzegids is an annual publication by the Center for Higher Education Information. It is compiled on the basis of accreditation decisions of the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organization and on the basis of student assessments from the National Student Survey. This means that this guide is not only based on scientific criteria, but also on quite extensive empirical data. Underpinning these data are students’ opinions; this year more than 740,000 students were invited to give their opinion about their study and educational institution. This means also that this publication is not only important for the faculty deans and policy advisers to improve their work, but also as a guide for students to select their master’s program. So, if you are applying for masters next year this seal should be one of you references.

The main and simple point to take away from this blog is when selecting a master's program, there are seemingly a few references that can help you create your opinion and narrow down your choice, such as the program’s website, the information provided therein and students' suggestions, but there is a yet another example of some other criteria that you can look at to assess whether this is a good master for you and your future. If your are doubting or comparing very similar programs and standards then you may ask the policy advisers to provide you with the outcome of this source, or simply look for this seal. 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

How to research, even when it’s dynamic

In a previous blog on the 15th of January I wrote about how the Legal Research Master's is a medium to see law from three perspectives; philosophical, methodological and practical. In this blog I discuss the Dynamics of law courses –the practical aspect of the LRM. But what does this word “Dynamics” entail in a legal context? 

Dynamics simply implies the interaction, challenges and connectivity of and among legal orders. Thus, the central issue of each dynamics course is the legal intertwining of the national, European and international legal orders in a specific field of law. In other words, how do legal orders interact in a given situation? Do they interact in a hierarchical or in a horizontal way in a given situation? Which order dominates? Does the international legal order or law constitute a highest norm, since it regulates the relationship between states and international organizations around the world? Or are the states, represented by their national legal orders and state sovereignty, constituting the highest norm or the source of all orders? What is the role of European law and institutions as a middle order between the national and international orders, especially when it contradicts International Law?  

Overall, there are three Dynamics courses. Each Dynamics course focuses on certain aspects; in the first block we started with the dynamics of constitutional and administrative law, the second was the dynamics of criminal law and human rights and currently we are diving into the dynamics of private law. In these courses, words like globalization, trans-national, Europeanization, harmonization, unification, convergence, divergence, etcetera are closely tackled. To my mind this is a thrilling legal discourse and an essential skill to any person who looks forward to being a legal researcher. In my experience, applying and writing about the coexistence of these legal orders is a vital activity in a dynamic fast world full of technology, legal development and globalization.

Now I pay attention to the presence of these dynamics. First of all, International law influences states in many occasions such as treaty law, jus cognes customary norms, UN binding resolutions and the case law of the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. Similarly, the European order is yet another legal order that influences a big number of European states. The role of the EU legal order in these dynamics is manifested in norms and principles such as direct effect, effectiveness, primacy, etc. These have implications on the national legal orders of the EU member states –and in some occasions other states. Though, national legal orders are able to push back as they still possess a respective protected legal identity and culture, sovereignty and autonomy in applying law in its territory.

Ultimately, even when conducting a seemingly domestic legal research other layers may come into play and vice versa. In a more connected world than ever, a thorough legal research cannot be conducted in isolation from a background of the interaction and dynamics of legal orders. This suffices to say that it is vital for any legal researcher to be mindful of the Dynamics of law.   

Saturday, 3 February 2018

In the loving memory of Matthias Jorissen

Over 10 days ago I thought about blogging about people of the Utrecht University law faculty. I thought about picking a monthly character from my fellow students, university employees and my teachers. The Idea was to pick someone to take a picture with and to write about. The very first person who popped up in mind was Matthias Jorissen. Perhaps he was even the one who made me think about it. More or less a week ago, I had a conversation with one of my fellow students in front of Janskerkhof –the law faculty building, when Matthias ran into us as he was photographing and covering some event, as usual. I remember we had had a short conversation with him. As soon as he left I told my friend about this idea and that I will start with writing about Matthias and that I will contact him later about it. It could have also been an opportunity to tell Matthias what I had in mind, but too much trust I give to longevity! I thought I had all the time in the world to contact him.
Even greater was the shock when I heard that less than a day after this coincidental meeting, Matthias passed away as the result of a heart attack. But who is Matthias? Matthias worked as the LRM policy advisor, but he was so much more than that. Both current and former LRM students called him the father of the LRM. He was a counsellor, a friend, problem solver. He was the perfect bridge between staff and LRM students. For our LRM dean prof. mr. Janneke Gerards he was immensely valuable in assisting her with the organization around the LRM. She told me the work he did cannot be replaced by five others.
That Matthias was a special man who was loved by many became even clearer during his memorial service yesterday. The Janskerk next to the faculty was packed with people who came to so say goodbye. Many of them brought flowers and the memorial was filled with speeches and music. Matthias was praised for his humor, his devotion to everything he did, and above all his attentiveness to each and every one of us. Matthias will leave an enormous gap in all of our lives. He will not be forgotten. Goodbye Matthias, rest in peace.

Monday, 15 January 2018

I am a legal researcher. What is your superpower?

Surrounded by articles and books and constrained by deadlines and meetings, I could finally manage to reach out to my blog. Glad to be here again. My motive this time is to warn you not to apply for the Legal Research Master’s! Yes, don’t you dare.

Unless you are genuinely striving for learning what law is and ought to be, how to solve complex legal issues, and which methods would enable you to do so; do not apply for it. Many people here in the Netherlands and in Egypt have been asking me “what do you study?” When I reply with: “legal research”, they say: “Yes, but which domain of law; public or private? Which branch of law; criminal, administrative, civil, etc.? And, which legal order do you study? Is it national, international or European?        

I reply with: “perhaps all; I study legal research, I am being trained to research law, but let me further explain...” To my mind, Legal Research Master’s (LRM) inspires me to see how Law can be used as a tool of change. At the LRM arena, this inspiration arose from looking at law from three windows; one is philosophical, the second is methodological and the third is practical.

The first is philosophical, because when I read the assigned literature and attend lectures, I approach law as a science, and therefore, many questions emerge about Law and its characteristics.  Secondly, the methodological discourse exposes me to various debates on several types of legal research. This makes me understand more how law actually functions and how it can be used in the most reliable sense. Lastly, I see law from a practical window because at LRM we are acquainted, more often than not, with tackling and solving complex issues that emerge from the intertwinement of legal orders, in each domain and in each branch of law. The rational is, those who understand law best and know how to use it through a thorough training are able to lead in any branch of law -able to change for better.

These insights are provided to me via Methodology and Dynamics meetings, assignments and literature; the foundational elements of the LRM.  Although I make the substance of the LRM seem too broad, in later blogs I will dig deeper and discuss with examples; how such elements can be utilized in a given specialization. Also, I will discuss the possibility & flexibility to narrow down your focus to the topics of your interest.
If you are up for this challenge and want to know more about the LRM from an international perspective, stay tuned for the upcoming blogs in which I will give some insights on the LRM activities, research projects and courses, etc. Stay tuned!