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University Council reflects on 50th anniversary

Published: 09th July 2021 Last updated: 09th July 2021

During the last University Council meeting of this academic year, on July 8, 2021, the Council reflected on fifty years of employee and student participation. On Friday, June 25, 1971, the predecessor was installed of what is now the University Council (then called Hogeschoolraad). Before employees and students were allowed to co-determine the university’s course, all power was vested in the Governing Board and the Senate.

The University Council as a critical friend in academic governance

Before the start of the regular University Council meeting, attention was paid to the Council’s 50th anniversary from various perspectives. The chairman of the University Council, Rien Wijnhoven, expressed his pride in the special role that Tilburg played in the establishment of participation. The then hogeschool was the first academic institution in the Netherlands to install a Hogeschoolraad. The university has the highest voter turnout in the entire country and continues to reinvent itself. “Just like 50 years ago,” Wijnhoven said, “Tilburg University continues to play a role in the discussions on the future of participation in academia.”

In his talk, university historian Pieter Siebers looked back on the occupation of Tilburg University by students in May 1969, which ultimately proved to be the prelude to the establishment of the Hogeschoolraad. He also described how various generations of administrators saw employee and student participation. Some perceived the Council as unnecessary and troublesome, others saw it as a partner.

Next, four former members of the University Council addressed the audience via video messages. They called on the Council members to be committed especially in discussions on vision and strategy, in sum, on the future of the university, and to enjoy and learn from their time on the Council.

Rector Magnificus Wim van de Donk pointed out the importance of the University Council for the academic community at the university. He also underlined the importance of democracy as a learning process: “The University Council helps us improve our decision-making.” Various speakers emphasized the good relations existing between the Executive Board and the University Council, in which the Council is seen as a critical friend.