What will Tilburg University look like at its 100th anniversary?

What will Tilburg University look like at its 100th anniversary?

Growing in significance. That is what Tilburg University wants. In the new strategic plan, the university shows where it wants to go towards its 100th anniversary.

Image: Jack Tummers

An internationally leading university in the field of human and social sciences, which aims to contribute to broad prosperity in society. With a focus on digitalization, sustainability, interdisciplinarity, and a pleasant and safe working environment. This is how Tilburg University, in a nutshell, wants to be known in 2027, when the university celebrates its 100th anniversary.

The new strategic plan, Weaving Minds and Characters, points the way. A plan, the Executive Board notes, that came about jointly: with the Deans, the participants of the deliberation tables, and the participation body.

In recent years, the university has grown significantly. From about 12,000 students in 2014 to 20,000 students in 2021. Tilburg University can now call itself a medium-sized university.

This rapid increase in the number of students was necessary, according to Rector Magnificus and President of the Board Wim van de Donk. “Scale is simply not unimportant in the academic landscape.”

But after the sprint, it is time for reflection. The university wants to maintain the current size in the coming years, can be read in the strategic plan. Stabilization in student numbers gives the university the opportunity to focus on a more qualitative development. “We want to grow in significance,” Van de Donk said.

What still has to grow: the number of affordable student homes in the city. Van de Donk: “We will work on that together with the municipality.”

Digitalization

Digitalization is changing society at a rapid pace. And so is the university: “This is going to fundamentally affect the way we organize our education and research,” says Van de Donk. Students at Tilburg University will be offered a basic course in digital sciences in the future, which may extend across Schools.

Executive Board: Jantine Schuit, Wim van de Donk and Paulina Snijders. Image: Ton Toemen

What to expect in such a course? Not just information about programming languages, but also about the models behind such a language and about the most current insights about digital technology in a broad sense.

Scientists are supported to be able to work with the highest quality data. To this end, the university will invest more in large-scale infrastructure for research data. The university wants to use the knowledge that is released in this way for social issues. “The digital Durkheim works in Tilburg,” says Van de Donk, referring to Émile Durkheim, the scientist also considered as the first sociologist in Europe.

Vibrant campuses

The coronavirus has accelerated digitalization at Tilburg University as well. There is now talk of blended learning (a combination of offline and online education) and hybrid working (alternating between working from home and in the office). These new ways of working and learning are here to stay and will continue to take shape in the future. But the campus will not be lost sight of in the process, says Paulina Snijders, Vice-President of the Executive Board.

Minor correction: actually, “campuses” should be referred to. Plural. Because the university is moving towards the city. With MindLabs, there is now also a place in the Spoorzone, and hard work is being done there to develop a Spoorcampus. This in addition to the existing locations in Utrecht and Den Bosch.

The campus should remain accessible and welcoming, Snijders believes, a place where people can meet. “There is a generation of students coming here who really want to enjoy and experience student life. It’s important to bring them on board, to have them participate. That’s why the construction of the new education building is continuing, despite the coronavirus. And we continue to invest in state-of-the-art research facilities.”

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