Clingendael Spectator Student column

In addition to analyses, interviews, book and movie reviews, series and opinions, the Clingendael Spectator regularly publishes a column. From their specific expertise, pundits describe what caught their eye in the news about international politics. Because students often have a refreshing look at world politics, the Clingendael Spectator publishes a student column once every six months.

Did you – based on already acquired experience – notice any significant events in current affairs? Do you have a clear-sighted perspective and good drafting skills?

Write a column (in English or Dutch) of max. 800 words and send it by 15 October 2023 to Of course, it is permitted to base the column on an assignment or thesis.

The winner will be published on the website.

Guidelines for a column/an op-ed

How do you write an op-ed?

First of all, it is important to realise why you are writing an op-ed. An opinion piece is not like a news article, essay or analysis on the topic you are writing about. You are writing it because you have something to say! It helps if you really have an opinion on the topic and can write about it passionately. It is important to stick to the facts though.

2. About what?
Two things matter when it comes to the topic: knowledge and urgency.

First, it is important to write about a topic that you know a lot about. Not only because it is more interesting to read, but also because you make it easier on yourself to write the piece. With a column, timing is important; you may be late to the market if you have to figure out the topic all the way through first.

Second, it should be clear to the reader why this topic is relevant. The topic of a column should connect to a current debate or initiate a new one on a pressing topic. This is especially important if you want to be published; newspapers, magazines and blogs all respond to current issues. So engage in a debate as soon as possible. Do not state the obvious; look for solutions rather than observations.

3. How?
An op-ed is usually between 600 and 800 words. Before writing, you should be able to summarise your piece in one or two key sentences. You have a strong argument and it is clear to your readers why they should read your opinion. It is important to keep your readers engaged; you do not want them to lose focus after the third paragraph.

Writing a column is very different from an academic essay, paper or literature review. You get your readers' attention by immediately naming the problem and your main argument. Do not use academic language and keep your sentences short. Use words your readers are familiar with.

Most importantly, make a compelling argument. Avoid too much description and use clear examples, which will make it more likely that your readers will remember your piece. Keep it simple and do not pretend to be the authority on the subject. It increases the legitimacy of your piece if you as the writer acknowledge that others may have different opinions.

4. Conclude!
At the end of your column, you conclude your main argument as you did at the beginning, using different wording. Your opinion should be stimulating and put your topic in a new light.

5. And finally…
Remember why you started writing an op-ed. You have an opinion you want to share and a solution (or a proposal) to a relevant and current problem.