Opening academic year: Tilburg University campaigns for ‘University of the Southern Netherlands’
Koen Becking, president of the Executive Board of Tilburg University, sounded the call for a unified ‘University of the Southern Netherlands’ at the opening of the academic year last Monday. Not every other ‘southern’ university seems excited.
Key-note speaker of the opening of the academic year in Tilburg was Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the current Minister of Finance and member of the Dutch Labour Party. He held a passionate speech (in English) about the necessity to mind the gap between those with economic opportunities in life and those without. More remarkable though was Koen Beckings call for a united ‘University of the Southern Netherlands’. In order to be less expensive for Dutch taxpayers and more competitive internationally, he thinks a fusion of the southern universities is inevitable.
Several responses already appeared in the media from universities from the two southern provinces of Brabant and Limburg. Frank Baaijens, rector magnificus of Eindhoven University, was not amused. In Eindhovens Dagblad he said that Becking had jumped the gun: “Administratively, this is inappropriate. In our opinion you can’t make these kind of statements without deliberation first. This is not one bridge too far, but three bridges too far.”
Others reacted positively though, and mentioned that deliberation had already taken place. The head of Avans University of Applied Sciences, Paul Rüpp, said: “Yes, we already did some talking. It is a very interesting development and we will find out where we can strengthen and complete each other.” Maastricht University also seems willing to think about a fusion. The president of Maastricht University, Martin Paul, said that Maastricht is ‘always prepared to cooperate’. As a matter of fact, Paul emphasized, the former rector magnificus of Maastricht, Gerard Mols, already came up with such a plan, but at the time it did not receive enough praise. One can add here that the ‘Western’ universities of Rotterdam, Leiden and Delft already have a far-reaching collaboration.
Besides the statement of Becking and the speech by Dijsselbloem, the university also awarded the prize for the best student-entrepreneur of Tilburg. The winner is Richard van Laak with his company Scribbr.nl, which helps students with language problems in their thesis.