Fifty years of Psychology: pioneering spirit and resilience

Fifty years of Psychology: pioneering spirit and resilience

Every month, Academic Heritage project leader Pieter Siebers places characteristic events, persons, buildings, or objects in a historical perspective. This time: fifty years of Psychology at Tilburg University.

The campus in the 1970s, with the housing of Psychology on the left

On March 31, Psychology celebrated the 50th anniversary of its study program, including a mini symposium. A book was also presented by the School, and a small exhibition was opened in Cobbenhagen Building, showing the most important developments in words and pictures.

The start in 1971 was special. The carpet had not yet been laid when some eighty students registered at the end of August for the new study program in Psychology in Tilburg. The university was still called Katholieke Hogeschool Tilburg and was housed in a few temporary wooden buildings that had been erected for the occasion and were known as makeshift buildings.

Spiritual father

The Dean of the brand-new study program was the psychologist Frans van Dooren, who was educated in Nijmegen, held a PhD, and had been a full professor of Business Psychology and Social Psychology in Tilburg since 1954. He may be considered the spiritual father of the sub-faculty of Psychology, which was the formal status of the program. Van Dooren was Rector Magnificus of the Hogeschool in the year that the institution moved from the inner city to a plain in the west, on the edge of the Warandebos.

His managerial experience served him well in developing the institution, which had started out as a business college in 1927, into an academic institution for the legal, social, and medical sciences. At the end of the 1960s, Tilburg lost its chance of having a medical faculty, but the time was ripe to persuade the Ministry of Education—following the advice of the then Academic Council to establish a program in Psychology in Tilburg.

Not in each other’s way

The process was far from easy, not least because agreements had to be made with Nijmegen University. Like Tilburg, Nijmegen University was Catholic, and the Ministry felt that these two “special” institutions should not be at cross-purposes. Partly because of this tension, Tilburg was explicitly positioned in the “empirical” tradition, with various laboratories available to scientists and students from the very beginning.

Tilburg, Van Dooren stressed, was not in the “rational” philosophical tradition. People liked to speak of the EoT-paradigm, the foundations of which were formed by Economic Psychology, Organizational Psychology, and Techno Psychology. In the latter field, Tilburg could boast of a somewhat longer tradition: as early as 1933, Jan de Quay (the later Prime Minister) had been appointed Full Professor of Business Administration and Psychotechnics.

Pieter Siebers is an art historian and responsible for Tilburg University’s academic heritage of. He is affiliated with the Executive Services Division and wrote, among other things, the Kleine encyclopedie – Tilburg University 1927-2017 (Brief History in English), which highlights the past and present of the institution. More information about the history of the university can be found on the heritage portal.

Translated by Language Center, Riet Bettonviel


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