The decision comes after a protracted conflict between the Catholic church and the two institutions on supervisory board appointments and the unbundling of the university and the medical centre.

The university was founded in 1923 as the Roman Catholic University of Nijmegen. As of 15 November 2020, the designation Catholic will be revoked. The institutions may still use the designation until that date. After that, they must do away with it.

Not Catholic enough

Dutch bishops have long had the right to appoint new members to the board of the Catholic University Foundation (SKU), the supervisory body of both the university and the medical centre. The bishops have not made use of their authority since 2014, however, because the nominees were considered to be not Catholic enough.

The foundation went to court to break through the deadlock, and won the case last summer. The foundation may now appoint board members without the intervention of the bishops, and will also be allowed to start preparing the administrative unbundling of the university and the medical centre. The Dutch bishops feel that they have too little influence and therefore revoked the designation Catholic.

The foundation deeply regrets the bishops’ decision, “but will respect it nonetheless,” according to a statement. It is expected that the university and the medical centre will each have its own supervisory board starting on 1 January.


Radboud University’s legal status and employee participation will not change significantly, according to a spokesperson. “We are and will remain a special university” – in contrast to the many public universities in the Netherlands.

Tilburg University still retains its Catholic designation. This institution was founded in 1927 as the Roman Catholic Business School and received a university charter in the mid-1980s.