New Catholic course at Tilburg University? Out of the question, according to Rector Van de Donk

New Catholic course at Tilburg University? Out of the question, according to Rector Van de Donk

Is Tilburg University going to take a new Catholic course? According to an extensive article in the Brabants Dagblad, yes. But that is far too premature, says Rector Wim van de Donk.

“Last Saturday the Brabants Dagblad published a background article on Catholic university education. The journalist questioned and quoted some Tilburg University administrators and scientists. We want to emphasize that, contrary to what the tone of the article suggests, there is no question of a new course for our university,” Wim van de Donk told Univers.

Dusting off the Catholic identity

In the Brabants Dagblad article (Dutch only), in addition to Van de Donk, theologians Erik Borgman and Marcel Sarot, student pastor Michiel Peeters, Bishop Jan Hendriks and Chair of the Board of Governors, Hugo Reumkens, are featured. “Tilburg University is going to dust off and deploy its Catholic identity,” writes the Brabants Dagblad. “The time is ripe for it, the Board believes.”

The article raises many questions within the Tilburg University corridors. Is the university really going to reinforce its Catholic identity? And is that a wise choice in 2021?

But according to Van de Donk, there is no radical change of course. “We obviously contributed to the article, but essentially did not provide any new information. Our mission is articulated on our website: to serve society and make it better for citizens. It will remain that way.”

Martinus Cobbenhagen

Van de Donk refers to Martinus Cobbenhagen, founder of Tilburg University. “He believed that those who want to understand society must be actively and consciously involved in it. These ideas still form the basis of our university. To this end, our more than 1,500 employees develop and transfer knowledge and bring people from different fields of study and organizations together. In this way, we want to contribute to solving complex social issues and, thus, make an impact.”

According to Van de Donk, the Tilburg Educational Profile also remains guiding: “To educate students to become responsible and entrepreneurial professionals, Tilburg University invests in providing quality and innovative education according to the principles of knowledge, skill, and character.”


Next year, Tilburg University will present a new strategy. This will describe the course for the future in detail. The university is still in full dialogue about the content of the strategy. This week the first ideas will be presented during Speech 2027, to which all employees and students of Tilburg University are invited.

Van de Donk: “In developing this new strategy, we are having extensive conversations among ourselves about what our mission is, and what is worth pursuing. We are doing this by reference to four values, which are informed by the open Catholic signature and traditions of our university.”

There can be no talk of a Catholic reform, according to the Rector. The Catholic tradtion? That will remain.

The four values for the new strategy

Connected: We are connected to each other, to society, to other disciplines, and to other cultures. We embrace and value variety and multiple perspectives.

Curious: We are in search of new and fundamental knowledge and insights and essentially interested in what is still unknown. Where knowledge ends, we find inspiration and a mandate to continue searching.

Caring: We respect and take care of each other; we draw strength from our differences. The fundamental nature of human dignity—of all people and of the whole person—guides us in our decisions and behaviors.

Courageous: We think and act courageously, are critical and independent. We show decisiveness. We dare to go against established views. We trust each other and give each other space, also to make mistakes and learn from them. We have the courage to choose wisely.


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