'Put it in perspective: 20,000 students is not a huge number'

| Stan Waning

At the third edition of 'Perspectives', interested people debated student growth at UT on Tuesday afternoon in the Horst. The meeting did not lead to any discussion, but it did highlight the topic from different perspectives.

On the thirteenth floor of the Horst Tower, where the dozens of attendees could grab a lunch roll given the hour, Pieter Boerman, director of Pre-U, and student Akin Akinyoade led the conversation. They were flanked by the student panel, consisting of UReka member Tim Achterkamp and Oliver Davies, president of student association Inter-Actief on the one hand, and three table guests on the other. Sissi de Beer, programme director Applied Physics, Wieteke de Kogel, teacher of Manufacturing Systems and Victor-Jan Leurs, director of Twente Board.

To get the debate going, attendees could respond to some statements, related to student growth, via their phones. Can UT maintain its identity with 20,000 students? Most alumni leave Twente after studying: should the focus be on quality or quantity? And as we head towards 20,000 students, what is needed most?

Quality of education

The attendees all seemed to agree that the UT, as well as companies and the municipality, have a shared responsibility when it comes to student growth, and everything that comes with it. De Kogel underlined that statement with an example. 'If I have to review work from 250 students, and I set aside half an hour per student for that, then I have to spent 125 hours on that. You can't do that. If student numbers grow, staff have to grow with them. Otherwise, growth always comes at the cost of quality.'

Leurs, who highlighted the topic from the perspective of companies, left no doubt that an increase in the number of students is much needed. Not only at the UT, but also at Saxion and the ROC van Twente. 'Doing nothing is no longer possible. In my opinion, we can put the region, but especially the companies, much better on the map. We are world-leading in Twente in the development of chip design, and in the development of the next generation of batteries, but nobody knows it.'


The message to address student growth as broadly as possible also came from the student panel. Achterkamp: 'We have fantastic sports facilities on campus, but they have not grown with student numbers in recent years. In the summer, for example, this meant I could make less use of the baseball field. If student numbers continue to grow, the facilities should be included in that.'

Board president Vinod Subramaniam wrote busily during the debate and closed the meeting by saying it was good to hear different voices. Stressing that growth in itself is not a goal, he reiterated that unbridled growth is something no one wants, but also asked attendees to put the 20,000-student number in perspective. 'Look at the numbers at the University of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and Saxion. 20,000 is not a huge number, as long as we keep working together to manage that growth.'

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