According to Koen Becking, the chairman of Tilburg University’s executive board, the universities and universities of applied sciences of the provinces of Brabant and Limburg should be merged to form a University of the Southern Netherlands.

The higher education institutions of the Southern Netherlands should join forces, Becking said on Monday afternoon in a speech held at the official opening of the new academic year.

Earlier that day, he had already explained to BNR News Radio what advantages such a merger might hold. It would enable the education institutions to use tax revenues more frugally, be more attractive to international talent and obtain more funding.

“Always willing to discuss matters”


Becking already discussed the idea with the chairmen of several universities’ executive boards and provincial authorities, he said through his spokesperson. However, most of these other education institutions had no idea he was going to launch the plan yesterday.

Not that they are rejecting the plan offhand. Maastricht University is always willing to discuss collaboration, chairman of the executive board Martin Paul stated through his spokesperson. He said the proposal was originally made by former Maastricht University rector Gerard Mols, “but at the time, no follow-up ensued”.

“The idea is brought up every now and then at an informal level,” agreed Eindhoven University of Technology’s spokesperson. “We established the data science degree programme in association with Tilburg University. But we’re not at all discussing a merger. We’re already engaged in an intensive partnership with the four [Dutch] universities of technology and with Utrecht University. We’re mostly looking at what we can do for each other in terms of the various fields of research.”

Avans keen on the idea

Avans University of Applied Sciences seems to be the keenest on the idea. “Yes, we’ve discussed it,” says Paul Rüpp, chairman of the school’s executive board. “It’s a very interesting development, and we’ll look into how we can strengthen and complement each other. The universities of applied sciences will be developing more Master’s degrees. We like doing that in association with the universities. We can also give the universities’ basic research an actual application, which is what universities of applied sciences specialise in. And let’s not forget about programmes allowing students to move on from a university of applied sciences to a regular university.”

Zuyd Hogeschool has not yet heard anything about the merger plans, but is quite willing to discuss the potential for co-operation with the other parties, “provided there is any added value in it for our students and our services,” says the school’s spokesperson. The university of applied sciences has collaborated with Fontys and Avans Universities of Applied Sciences in several fields of research for a while now. “If there are any ideas out there on how this collaboration can be further improved, we’ll be happy to hear them.”