University Council turns fifty

Via Nostalgia 1min. Annemeike Tan

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the University Council (or College Council as it was originally called) of Tilburg University. Before staff and students were allowed to discuss and co-decide the direction the university would take, all power lay with the Curatorium (board of governors) and the Senate. At its July 2021 meeting, the University Council briefly commemorated this milestone.

University Council Chair Rien Wijnhoven is proud of Tilburg’s special role in participatory decision-making. Back in the day, Tilburg was the first institution of higher education to formally establish a College Council, the university today has the highest voter turnout nation-wide, and it is constantly reinventing itself. “Just like half a century ago,” Wijnhoven contends, “Tilburg University is poised to play its part in discussing the future of participatory decision-making at universities.”

The University Council as the Executive Board’s critical friend

50jaar uraad

University historian Pieter Siebers refers to the student occupation of the Tilburg campus in May 1969, which eventually led to the College Council being established. “Different generations of governors held different views on participatory decision-making. Some felt the Council was superfluous and troublesome, others regarded it as a partner.”

Rector Magnificus Wim van de Donk firmly believes the University Council is essential to the academic community that is the university. And he underlines the value of democracy as a learning process: “The University Council helps us to improve our decision-making.”

In the video below, four former University Council members call on the incumbent council members to fully engage in discussions about vision and strategy – in other words, the university’s future – as well as to enjoy and learn from their time on the Council.