Column: University of Twente 10-Year Challenge

| Bas Leijser

In this biweekly column, Bas Leijser gives his unfiltered opinion on university life, with a bit of sarcasm and Dutch directness mixed in. In his free time, Bas likes to graduate for his master in Civil Engineering & Management.


Have you heard of the 10-Year Challenge? It is one of those internet trends, like the Ice Bucket Challenge or Bird Box Challenge. Yet, while those challenges are for a good cause (ALS Syndrome and chlorinating the human gene pool, respectively), the 10-Year Challenge is nothing more than today’s equivalent of looking at an old photo album.

To those students who were born in or after 2000 (by the way, you will always remain 10 years old to me): a photo album is a non-digital book that you could fill with non-photoshopped pictures.

Anyway, without further ado, let us put the University of Twente to the test: it is time for the UT 10-Year Challenge. We’re going back to the future: to 2009.

A quick Google search reveals two videos: ‘Promo film UT 2009’ and ‘Student introduction 2009’. Before you ask, yes, they are both cringeworthy. I also looked into the annual reports (170+ pages) of both 2009 and 2017 (someone must be procrastinating on the 2018 version), which officially makes this the most time I’ve ever spent researching during my whole studies. But I digress.

Suffice it to say (spoiler alert), the UT has not aged well.

Let’s start with the positives. Based on the student introduction video, it seems that the juggling club already existed back in 2009 and has survived to this day, which is indeed an extraordinary feat.

Additionally, the UT now receives 53% more income from college tuition (+8.3 million euros) compared to 10 years ago, as well as 4% more subsidy from the national government (+8.3 million euros). These numbers are either a coincidence or the Kremlin has infiltrated the university politics.

On to the negatives.

A quick look at the promo video shows that the university in 2009 was composed entirely of: hundreds of extremely happy students smiling broadly, very frequent dance/techno parties (this literally takes up about 25% of the video), hipster professors on Segway’s, an obligatory student in an exoskeleton, and an obligatory student on a bike who is wearing a VO2 mask (has this ever convinced anyone to come study here?).

Flash forward to 2019. One third of all students now have psychological problems, especially foreign students. Clearly there is a correlation here with the lack of parties and the lack of professors on Segway’s.

What the UT did change is its slogan, from ‘the enterprising university’ to ‘High tech human touch’, which honestly only made sense to me when someone from U-Today had the brilliant insight that it is a reference to sex robots.

Additionally, the UT’s logo was ‘changed on a few points’. One point, to be exact.

Let’s also not forget that we went from a world without TOM to a world with TOM for, reportedly, no other reason than that the university had money to spare (which was definitely not the case in 2009 by the way, where the UT had a deficit of 4.3 million euros).

So, what are the lessons we can learn here? I believe there are two.

For the students, the next time you get a camera pointed at you, cry as if you have just watched Bambi, so we don’t get another one of those misleading promo videos.

For the professors, I urge you to start going to work on a Segway and maybe do some tricks along the way, because clearly that is what the students need right now.