University College Tilburg

offers the multidisciplinary program of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In a state-of-the art location at the heart of the campus, a nurturing environment is created that allows international students to develop into critical thinkers and future leaders.

The Dean's blog: Harry Potter

In our University College, prospective students have to go through an admission procedure. People always assume we are only looking for excellence. While the term is commonly understood as standing for outstanding talent or achievement, it is not a scientific term. There is no clear-cut definition.

One way of establishing excellence is by simply looking at a person’s grade point average. But in our admission procedure we are looking for something more exciting we want motivated students who, most certainly, will have to be sufficiently intelligent to succeed in our demanding program, but who also have rather more to offer than just a bright mind. Therefore, apart from looking at their grades, we also interview them. I always ask them if they like to read. They know that their chances of admission will improve if they answer this question in the affirmative, and so they do. But of course the next question is going to be to name their favorite authors and titles. Usually after this, a strained silence ensues. Finally they come up with George Orwell’s 1984, the famous novel about a society terrorized by a totalitarian ideology.

Over the years I have come to dread this answer. Why don’t they ever mention other titles, like Dave Eggers’ The Circle, for instance? Like 1984, it is a dystopian story, but far more contemporary. It is about the world’s most powerful internet company that links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with the company’s universal operating system. This results in one online personal identity and spine-chilling transparency.

But the consistently mentioned number-one-title is, and always has been: J.K.Rowling’s Harry Potter. I tried reading the Harry Potter books, I struggled to get into them and experience the fascination they obviously hold for our students. But all the time I had this sense of recognition. Dumbledore reminded me of another wise wizard, Gandalf, and the evil sorcerer Voldemort was much like his arch enemy Sauron. The main character Harry Potter, not surprisingly perhaps after the last sentence, reminded me of Frodo. Slowly I got up from my chair and browsed through my book shelves, and there they were: Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Books that I devoured in my youth. I no longer read fantasy novels anymore, but I was truly fascinated by Rowling’s commencement speech, held in Harvard in 2008. It is a text I wholeheartedly recommend to our prospective students.