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.

TEP Talk Meindert Flikkema: The university as a beacon of humanity

During Night University Meindert Flikkema was the first speaker in the series of TEP talks that the Project Group for the Implementation of the Tilburg Educational Profile will be organizing in the months to come. This econometrist, affiliated to VU University and winner of many educational prizes, had 13 minutes to present his views on the future of academic education.

In those 13 minutes he gave a passionate talk explaining what he feels is wrong with our present university system and outlining the change of direction that is needed. Modern universities are publication mills whose mission is to shine, with excellence and rankings taking precedence over everything else. In Flikkema’s view, a university should first and foremost be a community of learners, where advancement and progress are central rather than output. Where people look after each other. Where the foundations are laid for a humane existence for everyone. A university abandoning the neo-liberal project in favor of a socio-existential transition. In Meindert Flikkema’s opinion, universities should be beacons of humanity.

(This TEP talk is in Dutch.)

‘We educate to further civilization’

Flikkema managed to captivate the audience, consisting of a nice mix of lecturers, students, and a few parents. They wanted to hear from Flikkema what the consequences of his proposal would be for education, for research, and for the job market. ‘Should research always be useful?’, was one of the questions coming from the audience.  Flikkema’s answer was a decided ‘no’. He argued in favor of reseach being conducted together with students. And what about the job market, preparation for which universities set such great store by these days? His reponse was that ‘We do not educate students for jobs in companies; we educate them to further civilization.’ He feels that ‘uplifting society’ is what universities should be about. A very relevant question came from Alkeline van Lenning, co-author of the essay ‘Exploring an Educational Vision for Tilburg University.’ She obviously agreed with almost everything he said, much of it corresponding to the view expounded in the essay, but, she wondered, how are we going to realize this in a society where universities are funded on the basis of graduate output levels and performance agreements? “In the end it is about leadership,” Flikkema retorted, “One or two universities should take the lead and show the rest how we can go about things differently. Only then will we be able to break out of the impasse that is currently keeping us imprisoned”