Understanding Society

Tilburg University is convinced that it can contribute to solving social issues by developing and transferring knowledge and bringing together people from various disciplines and organizations.

Prof. dr. E.H.L. (Emile) Aarts, rector magnificus

Professor Emile Aarts has been Rector Magnificus of Tilburg University since June 1, 2015. As part of this position, he is responsible for the university’s education policy, including issues relating to the transition from higher secondary to academic education and the cooperation with the universities of applied sciences; the research policy, including indirectly funded and contract research; internationalization; the professorship policy; and academic representation (Doctorate Board).


Emile Aarts (1955) studied physics at Radboud University Nijmegen and obtained a PhD from the University of Groningen in 1983. Between 1983 and 2012, he worked for Philips Research in various research and management positions until he was appointed Chief Scientific Officer in 2009. Since 1990, he has been a part-time Professor of Computer Science at Eindhoven University of Technology. In 2012, he left Philips to pursue his academic career as Dean of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Eindhoven University.


Emile Aarts has an extensive track record as a manager at academic and government institutions, on both national and European levels. He was a member of the European ICT Advisory Board (ISTAG) and, for more than ten years, chaired the Board of the NWO Division of Physical Sciences. He has co-authored more than fifteen books and two hundred scientific publications. He was involved in the launching of the innovation concept ‘Ambient Intelligence’ (1997) and set up the Philips ExperienceLab (1998), the Intelligent Lighting Institute (2008), and the Data Science Center Eindhoven (2013). In 2014, he launched the Data Science Cluster Initiative, in which Tilburg University and Eindhoven University of Technology have committed themselves for a Brabant data science expert center with international appeal.

His research interests include Data Science, Social Innovation, and Open Innovation.

Overview of Professor Aarts’ most important additional offices

  • Board member of the Rathenau Instituut
  • President of the Stichting Niet Normaal
  • Board member of the Netherlands Study Centre for Technology Trends (STT)
  • Member of the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities
  • Member of the NWO-NIHC Scientific Advisory Board
  • Open Innovation Strategy and Policy Group (OISPG)

Offices in the context of his position as Rector

  • Member of Dutch Rectors’ Conference
  • Member Stuurgroep Onderzoek en Valorisatie VSNU
  • President Ledenraad Vereniging Ons Middelbaar Onderwijs
  • Board member Algemeen bestuur Midpoint Brabant
  • Co-president National KTO-overleg VSNU

The outside activities of the members of the Executive Board have been approved by the Remuneration Committee of the Board of Governors. These outside activities are subject to the Tilburg University Work for Third Parties Guidelines


Emile Aarts on Tilburg University:

"Our university is responsible for educating young talent to become the independent thinkers who will be able to shape the future of our society. To this end, we must not only transfer knowledge to our students through education, we also need to teach them to expand that knowledge through research and to transform it into value through valorization.


Tilburg University needs to be a stimulating environment in which we can optimally perform these three core tasks. In doing so, inspired by our motto of Understanding Society, we focus on transforming the insights obtained through our work into feasible solutions for future social issues, including sustainable care, a resilient society, good governance, and prosperity for all.


Our students and staff are central to this vision and we must ensure that the university itself serves as a model for the society we want to build. Internationally, Tilburg University should be one of the most attractive working environments for social innovation, whereby inclusion, transparency, and excellence are key elements. We need to make sure that everyone who is involved is given the opportunity to translate this vision into concrete action, with quality and self-fulfillment being key, and that we also cooperate for the success of our university, that belongs to us all.”