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Interview with Professor Hans Vedder

Date:17 June 2021
Prof. Hans Vedder
Prof. Hans Vedder

Hans Vedder is a Professor of Economic Law at the Faculty of Law, and teaches several courses.  We've asked him a few questions below to learn more about his academic profile and perspectives on the courses that he teaches within the Faculty.

What is your specific academic background, and what are your research interests? Do you currently work on any specific research projects?

That is an interesting question, because I do not have a specific academic background other than I try to keep up with EU Law across the board. And then I have a specialisation in what I call Competition Law and Market Regulation of the European Union and a couple of its Member States. I used to do European Environmental Law as well yet that kind of disappeared in time, but I am slowly getting back into it.

I always work together with PhD students with the research projects that they are involved in and I am currently supervising research on Energy Law (Smart Energy Systems), Competition Law, State Aid, Digital Markets, Data Markets (and how competition law should respond to that), and a little bit of European External Relations Law (in relation to sustainability criteria). And my own personal research is all about Digital Markets, Sustainability, and Competition Law. So, I am writing articles on these subjects.

What courses do you teach within the Faculty?

I teach the new complicated Competition Law course, which is basically Competition Law and Market Regulation merged into one big course. I am also doing the Dutch version of Competition Law, Mededingingsrechtand I am involved in European Sustainability Law, but that will have a different name in the new European Law in a Global Context LLM. I am preparing a course for the Technology Law track in the LLB, that would look at competition law in digital markets. I am also teaching Telecommunicatierecht  in the Dutch Law Bachelor. In addition to teaching, I also supervise theses within the LLB programme.

What do you enjoy teaching about these specific courses?

 What I enjoy mostly about teaching is seeing students learn, that’s just what drives me. When I see a group of students that are really learning, improving, and they start to understand stuff. That’s amazing to see.

How are the degree programmes you teach in unique compared to similar programmes elsewhere? 

I think they stand out from some of the other programmes in that they have dedicated staff. That is really important - to have academic staff that have the time and dedication to teach at the University, and that they actually made a conscious choice to want to teach. We have academic staff that are really passionate, first of all, about the art of teaching, and that’s a really important thing.

What career prospects do you think there could be for students who pursue careers in your specific legal field of expertise?

I think the possibilities are endless. You can go anywhere. If I look at the students that I have supervised and kept in touch with, they ended up in academia, the European Commission, the United Nations, municipalities, banks, research institutions, big corporations, anywhere really. Careers are only limited by your own imagination. At the end of the day, what you get from an academic programme is a bit of knowledge, an active start within a field, a way of thinking, and an analytical framework, and that would help you flourish in any profession.  

Has the Covid-19 situation or any other recent international events (ie. brexit) affected the way in which experts in your field practise/operate their professions?

Of course. Covid-19 has changed a lot of things, like having a PhD defence online for example. This is something that no one normally had before and right now I have 3 coming up just before the summer break. It doesn’t have the same charm and the same feeling as being in the old building with the professors in black gowns, but it works - it is just as functional. The same applies to conferences and webinars. Before I had to get the train to get to them, and right now you just log in on a Friday afternoon and you’re connected; that changed a lot. In addition, I think that, in a wider world, sustainability and climate crises have really been a wake-up call for people as well as sustainability of societies.

In terms of teaching, that depends on the teaching activities. For lectures, it hasn’t really changed that much and actually lectures have become more efficient. I can do an educationally efficient lecture in less time because, first of all, I do not have to travel anywhere, I don’t have to walk to the classroom etc. But this only works if you have a couple of things in place, for example, personally, I need to see students faces. If everyone turns off their cameras, I can’t tell whether they actually get what I am saying, and even then, it’s not perfect. But seeing someone nod or looking puzzled, that just helps in understanding my students as a teacher. If I look at one on one teaching, this has become way more inefficient. What I used to do was to print out a chapter of a thesis and I would just scribble something and I would invite the student to discuss. Right now, what I have to do is completely elaborate any comment I have into something that is legible and comprehensible for the student; it takes more time and, in addition to that, I still have the meeting. So I can spend an hour on the chapter corrections and then after, I have a meeting for another hour.

Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing your same field of legal expertise?

I would say: develop a critical attitude, that is really important. It is important in any field of law, but especially in Competition Law, because it is such a standard field,you don’t have any clear rules like "this is prohibited" and "this is fine". We only have the abuse of dominance that is prohibited, and no one knows what is really an abuse and we even have trouble in finding what "dominance" is. If you have such fuzzy statutes and rules, you’re going to have a lot of room for interpretation. Then that room for interpretation could be used or abused by someone else, including scholars, and you really need to reflect carefully on everything that you read. I am always saying to students: "You are getting my take on Competition Law, but please feel free to disagree with me; I invite you to disagree with me, because my take is my personal understanding of law". I explain why I believe such a thing, but it is no more valid than any other understanding of Competition Law.

- Interview by: Cristiana Zamfir, International and European Law student
- Editor: Dr. Chris Brennan, Marketing Advisor, Faculty of Law