News and events Tilburg University

Retrospect Opening Academic Year 2023-2024

Published: 04th September 2023 Last updated: 13th September 2023

The Opening Academic Year 2023-2024 took place on Monday, September 4. The auditorium was packed with students, staff and invitees who got to hear all about digitalization.

Wim van de Donk tijdens de OAJ 2023-2024

Wim van de Donk, Rector Magnificus and President of the Executive Board, opened the ceremony and spoke a few words about this year’s theme: ‘The Art of Digitalization’. We see in our university many enthusiastic faculty and students who are constantly exploring where the opportunities lie. While we embrace digitalization, we also explore the downsides of digitalization and encourage critical reflection on this important new ‘system technology’. We actively accommodate the many questions about digitalization in our research.

Honorary doctorate for prof. Sabina Leonelli

Prof. Sabina Leonelli received an honorary doctorate, presented by Prof. Maureen Sie, for her academic achievements, in particular in the context of the impact of Big and Open Data on research. She has held various roles to engage in dialogue with scientists and governments as an expert and ambassador. Her work connects the Humanities and Digital Sciences and is thus closely linked to the profile we pursue within our university strategy. She is convinced that we need to grow our awareness of the role that technological developments may play. 

Leonelli: “The big challenge is redefining the very idea of “sustainable tech”, looking for tools and social structures that are both equitable and environmentally sound, and can help us humans better understand the implications of our interventions. This is where progressive academic institutions have a unique role to play, by providing a point of contact across sectors and social groups and promoting research and teaching that may benefit the planet in the long term and beyond the mere pursuit of financial profit. I understand Tilburg University to have taken these values as its core mandate, and I am proud and thankful for my new association with this endeavor.”

Sabina Leonelli

Download her acceptance speech

Keynote by Alexandra van Huffelen

The keynote speech was addressed by Minister for Digitalization Alexandra van Huffelen. She told us about her personal relationship with our university, the fact that she studied here, her interest in, what it was then called, information sciences, and shared her thoughts on digitalization. As Dutch Minister for Digitalization, she was eager to take this opportunity to talk about generative AI.

Alexandra van Huffelen

"The impact of generative AI is enormous, on our economy, our security and our labor market. Those potential impacts need to be closely studied, just as we must continue to research the workings and effects of big tech's products. That starts with asking questions, and for the answers the government desperately needs science." Van Huffelen said during her speech. "What we should strive for is an international center that takes on the research, testing and regulation of AI. And I actually think the Netherlands is the right place to host such a center. Perhaps specifically here in Tilburg."

We are honored that Van Huffelen inspires our academic community to take up our role from a humanities, society, and digitalization perspective. 

Read the article about her speech (in Dutch)

Download her speech

Prof. Boudewijn Haverkort responded to her arguments and showed the ways in which we as an academic community explore digitalization in our research. We just interviewed him regarding this subject.

Read the interview

Download his speech


Furthermore, two prizes were awarded during the Opening Academic Year:

  • The AV team won the Support Award linked to the theme of Digitalization for their crucial role in the transition to online education and working from home and the subsequent steps to be taken. Vice-President of the Executive Board Paulina Snijders presented the Award. 
  • Dr. Anke Liefbroer is Teacher of the Year 2023! She teaches the Pastoral Care and Psychopathology courses, and Sociology and Psychology of Religion. Vice-Rector Magnificus Jantine Schuit praised her efforts to achieve more connection with society. 
Anke Liefbroer ontvang prijs Docent van het Jaar 2023
AV-team wint Support Award Digitalisering 2023


The theme this year wasn't "The Art of Digitalization" for nothing. So, some art couldn't be missing! Tilburg artist Fransje Gimbrère unveiled ‘Physis’. This is a work of textile art in the hall of Koopmans building, showing to what extent our university and city are linked by the textile industry to earlier and modern forms of digitalization.

Fransje Gimbrere

Goodbye Paulina Snijders

At the end of the meeting, Hugo Reumkens, chairman of the Board of Governors, will officially bid farewell to Paulina Snijders, Vice-President and member of the Tilburg University Executive Board. On September 1, 2023, Paulina became a member of the Board of Directors of the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). 

Paulina Snijders

"Five years ago you brought the 'can do' mentality from Rotterdam to Brabant. In doing so, you made a great contribution to the administrative leadership of our university in a fresh way," said Hugo Reumkens. "Paulina, also on behalf of the academic community represented here, I thank you for everything you have done for Tilburg University in the past years. Thank you very much, have a good time in Groningen and know that you are always welcome to return."