Hans van Ginkel was Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Rector of the United Nations University, Tokyo, from 1997 to 2007 and Rector Magnificus of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, from 1986 to 1997. In 1980 he was appointed a full professor of Human Geography and Planning in Utrecht University. From 1980 to 1985 he was Dean of the Faculty of Geography and Planning also of “Utrecht”.
Van Ginkel was trained as a human geographer, historian and cultural anthropologist and his fields of specialization are urban and regional development, population, housing (public housing and housing markets) and environment. His other areas of interest include: internationalization, university management and science policy. He has published widely on these issues and has contributed extensively to the work of various international organizations. He was the President of the International Geographical Congress of the IGU in The Hague on “Land, Sea and the Human Effort” (1996). For his many contributions to the development of geography in the Netherlands and beyond, the Royal Netherlands Geographic Society (KNAG) awarded him the precious Plancius Medal (2000). He was, among others, also a member of the Board of the European University Association (CRE/EUA, 1989-1998, vice-president 1994-98); a member of the Board of the International Association of Universities (IAU, 1990-2008, vice-president 1995-2000 and president 2000-2004); and the West-European member in the Steering Group organizing UNESCO’s World Conference on Higher Education (Paris, 1998). Since this WCHE he has been particularly active in education with regard to ‘Dialogue among Civilizations‘ and ‘Sustainable Development‘, as well as in the follow-up of the conference. In 2006 he was appointed chair of the Board of the Centre for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn, Germany. In 2007 he was elected as a member of the International Committee on Dryland Development (ICDD, Caïro). Since 2009, he is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt, and chair of the board of the Kofi Annan Business Schools Foundation. He is, among others, also a member of the advisory board of the Gansu Natural Energy Research Institute (Lanzhou, China) and chair of the panel of experts of the World Landslide Forum (Kyoto).
In the Netherlands Van Ginkel was, among others, the chair, first of the scientific advisory council and then the governing board of the Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute (NIDI, the Hague); a member and then the chair of the governing board of the International Training Centre for the Geo-information Sciences and Remote Sensing (ITC, Enschedé, 1988-1998). Since 2007 he is the chair of the board of the Institute for Social Studies (ISS, the Hague). From 1989 to 1993 he was the independent chair of the Regional Council of Utrecht (RBU), which brought the City of Utrecht together with 11 neighbouring municipalities and the Province of Utrecht. This Regional Council developed a physical plan for the central part of the Netherlands, which is now being implemented. Hans van Ginkel received the Medal of the Utrecht Chamber of Commerce in 1993; and the Golden Medal of the City of Utrecht in 1997 for his contributions to the City and the Region. In 1994 Queen Beatrix honoured him with the “Knight of the Netherlands’ Lion“.
Van Ginkel holds a Ph.D. (summa) cum laude from Utrecht University (1979) and honorary doctorates from Universitatea Babes-Bolyai, Cluj, Romania (1997), State University of California at Sacramento (2003), the University of Ghana, Legon-Accra (2005), the Technical University of Zvolen, Slovakia (2006) and MacMaster University, Hamilton, Canada (2007). He is a Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Geo-Information Sciences and Remote Sensing (ITC, Enschede) and a former Vice-Chair of the Board of the Asian Institute for Technology (Bangkok, 1998-2006). He was a member of the Social Sciences Council of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and the Arts (KNAW), and is a member of the Academia Europaea and associate fellow of the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS). Outside the world of Academia he also received recognition: among others, after his return to the Netherlands he received from the emperor and the prime minister of Japan the highest possible distinction for his contributions to Japanese society: the Order of the Rising Sun, Grand Cordon (2007).