What is a good university?

During the most beautiful day of the month, not everybody is willing to come to a lunch debate in a dark theatre. This afternoon at 1 o’clock, 35 students and employees did exactly that, to join in the debate organized by the New University Tilburg. All to give an answer to the question: how can we improve Tilburg University?

Not everybody had time to prepare himself. While waiting for the debate to start, someone from TiSEM complains about his own faculty’s problems: “We are too busy fighting about whose fault it is that we have financial problems.” A TSH researcher nods understandingly. When professor Eric van Damme starts his speech on his views on the university, they listen quietly, just like the rest of the public.

A good university
Van Damme starts his speech by explaining what a good university is. It should be a community of learning, where open reflection and open discussion is possible, he says. Students should be proud of Tilburg University and develop themselves into constructive, critical minds. And these things don’t go well, Van Damme says. “Students can be satisfied, but not proud,” he claims. And the university is not a community. Open discussion is not possible, and criticism is not appreciated as an important academic value.

Am I management?
During the debate that follows, the first subject is the gap between management and academics. TSH dean Willem Drees asked if he is seen as part of the management. “I try to talk to as many academics and students as possible to bridge the gap between management and work floor,” he tells the public. A PhD student from TSH agrees, Drees tries his best to talk to people. He thinks the gap is mostly visible between academics and the central management.

One student is disappointed in the amount of debate that is possible at the university. “Basically, they want me to follow my classes, get my points, and leave as soon as possible. In high school I expected much more discussions on all kinds of interesting topics.”

More noise
The attention for the discussion about the university is still not big, but it seems to be growing. On 11 June, there will be a bigger debate, where the executive board will attend.



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