APPLY NOW// University of the Underground


Calling out to all the Willy Wonkas of modern times, the contemporary  Joy Division’s, JG Ballard’s, Marie Curie’s and Rauschenberg’s, action researchers and designers, mythologists and makers of new worlds!

With the aim of teaching students how to engineer situations, to design experiences and events, that best support social dreaming, social actions and power shifts within institutions, companies and governments, the world’s first University of the Underground, based in the underground of the urban space, promotes unconventional collages of references, interdisciplinary practices, chaos and experimentations at the start of any creative process.

The University of the Underground – directed by Nelly Ben Hayoun – responds to the current trend of increased fees for postgraduate programmes by firstly proposing a business model in which students are provided with scholarships to cover their tuition fees. By hosting the University of the Underground, Sandberg Instituut is making steps towards a new, ambitious model for financing education. In the near future scholarships are to be provided to students through the support of philanthropists (80%) and governmental grants (20%). As such, it aims to act as a model of what can be achieved through coordination, shared passion and belief in the next generation. The goal being to create many more of these educative structures worldwide with the same financial structure 80%, 20%.

The University of the Underground is Sandberg Instituut’s MA programme based in the underground of cities. The Sandberg’s Instituut is the postgraduate programme of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. The University of the Underground is developing Sandberg Instituut’s Unconventional Research Practices Department that is aiming to provide PhDs in the near future. The programme will, therefore, emphasise research, critical theories and context within students’ practices. The University of the Underground is established as a foundation in Amsterdam, composed of a multidisciplinary team as part of its advisory board and managed by Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios Ltd in London. The University of the Underground is based in London in the Village Underground and in Amsterdam.


The University of the Underground exists at the nexus between critical design, experiential, theatrical, filmic, political and musical practices and it results in the design of experiences.

The University of the Underground is lead by a multidisciplinary team of ‘dreamers of the day’, who believe that a positive inspiration and disturbance to the current cultural and educative system is required to best support the young generations in their creative and political endeavours. As such, this university is bold, ambitious and impolite.

The programme of this MA is concerned with a contemporary and strategic foresight implying politics, sustainability, institutions, new technologies and scientific developments both in Artificial Intelligence and in the current digital ecosystems. It makes innovative use of design, linguistic, experiential, mythological, musical and filmic practices as tools to engage members of the public with the debates created.

The University of the Underground lives in the undergrounds within a hidden network of urban spaces. It supports forms of deviance in creativity, the non-established and the unconventional, revolutionary practices, theatre of cruelties and musical concerts will be celebrated as we manufacture countercultures, radios, pirates utopias and experiences for power shifts.


In the University of the Underground, we believe that it is most urgent to equip young designers with the learning that allows them to use their knowledge of the material world within the navigation of governmental systems, institutions and power structures. We are concerned with the modelling and physical existence of students’ dreams, beliefs and myths. We believe in social dreaming becoming the fuel for social actions. In the punk tradition, we believe that there are no more heroes and we wish to democratise the institutionalised experience. If nothing else, experiences and events make you feel alive and connected to the world around you. Music can do just that, but many other artistic forms too, and it is within this realm that we will be experimenting with in the University of the Underground.

Students have rarely before been finally provided the tools and means to learn to understand their profession as the increasingly multi-faceted and malleable role it assumes in today’s world (which is ever changing and disorienting) – where designers enter the realm of authors, directors, politicians, planners, dreamers, activists, mythologists and musicians. We encourage students to use their own voice, style, tone and aesthetics as manifested in final outcomes of performative product scenarios, products embedded in the context of the built environment and the institutions, or the tangible experience and its implications now and in the coming years.


The University of the Underground is composed of creative soldiers, pirates, hidden creative agents of change, the Willy Wonkas of modern times, the contemporary Velvet Underground’s and the Joy Division’s, action researchers and designers, mythologists and makers of new worlds, living below ground in the underground and connected above while surveying from space.

We are looking for bold, very hard working and engaged students ready to jump on the rollercoaster and to experiment with various teaching disciplines in order to develop meaningful unexpected experiences. We encourage our students to challenge the rules of design by developing a performative, political and hybrid critical design practice with a philosophical existential attitude.

[Note: Some of the classes will take place in London and the others in Amsterdam.]