2.1 Education in 2021

The constantly changing circumstances placed many demands on the organization in 2021. Lecturers and support staff have searched for appropriate instructional formats and opportunities to allow our students to come to campus as much as possible. At the same time, it has become clear that the digitalization of education has become indispensable. Both lecturers and students have indicated that they would like to retain blended education in the future. We do not wish to lose the creativity that our lecturers have been forced to show over the past two years. In 2021, we began charting this opportunity that has emerged from the coronavirus crisis and how to secure it in the future. In addition, 2021 was marked by the completion of the 2018–2021 Strategic Plan.

Online instruction

In 2021, students, lecturers, and support staff all demonstrated resilience and flexibility. We started and ended the year in a lockdown. In the intervening months, we worked with a variety of scenarios: from partial opening in April to relatively relaxed circumstances in the summer and at the beginning of the new academic year, and the back to a tapering-off of activities later in the year. Throughout the entire period, we took advantage of all possible opportunities to have teaching take place on campus, as physical encounters between students and lecturers are an important element of academic training, as are encounters among students themselves. In this regard, priority was assigned to contact moments with first-year students (both Bachelor’s and Master’s).

Read the story of Zainab (photograph on the right))

In addition, the variety of online options continued to increase in 2021. Lectures, seminars, group work, individual tutoring (and thesis supervision), skills education continued using Canvas Conferences, BigBlueButton, Zoom, streamed lectures, and presentations with slide shows in PowerPoint. Knowledge bites were recorded, either in the Tilburg University studio or at home using do-it-yourself (DIY) studios and various applications (e.g., Chalkbox, PresentersWall, EdPuzzle, and WeConnect). Lecturers received support in this process, including through the website Innovate your Education. The EDUiLAB, the knowledge center for innovative education, gave workshops, and Teacher Desks provided custom advice to lecturers. In evaluations, students expressed satisfaction with the quality of teaching. At the same time, the limited opportunities for on-campus instruction prevented lecturers from providing the education—and the associated quality—that they would have liked to provide.

Read more about knowledge bites (photograph on the left))


In 2021, EDUiLAB made an important contribution to the innovation of education at Tilburg University. Within the Innovate Your Education program, 13 lecturers received a grant with which to redesign their teaching or to start working with new instructional tools. Together with the Schools, initial steps have been taken to award edubadges to Tilburg University students. In 2021, more than 200 students have requested badges. As a result, the University has also become a major player at the national level, participating in the Microcredentials pilot project of the Acceleration Plan for Educational Innovation. EDUiLAB also contributed its expertise at the international level in the European University Consortium Engage. In addition, Cube 35, the Innovation Room, is fully equipped and has won the EUNIS award for the best European AV-enabled Education Space. In 2021, EDUiLAB provided input for the new educational vision on blended learning for Tilburg University (in a paper entitled “Tilburg University education 2021–2022, and beyond”), as well as for the roundtable discussion on Educational Developments, which contributed to the strategy Weaving Minds and Characters: Strategy Towards 2027. Throughout 2021, together with Teacher Development and the Schools, EDUiLAB has played an instrumental role in supporting online, hybrid, and blended education since the pandemic outbreak. Finally, inspiring lecturers and allowing them to experience the possibilities of innovation in education resulted in a wide range of Teaching Meetings on various topics. Considerable attention has also been paid to communication about educational innovation for and by lecturers through the Edu-Inspire website, as well as through videos and podcasts.


In 2021, we were also challenged to find alternative ways of ensuring the quality of assessment. Despite the constantly changing conditions, we managed to conduct the examinations in a safe and proper manner. In 2020, online testing through Canvas and TestVision presented challenges relating to fraud prevention and proctoring. For this reason, in 2021, efforts were invested in the further development and deployment of a broad array of assessment forms, with the close involvement of assessment experts. To prevent or reduce study delays as much as possible, it was decided in September 2020 to proceed from a system of hybrid examinations. Throughout the entire 2020/2021 academic year, examinations were prepared in such a way that they could be administered both online and on campus. The use of proctoring to enable remote surveillance was accompanied by start-up problems, resulting in considerable resistance from lecturers and students. It was nevertheless necessary, in part because foreign students had been guaranteed the opportunity to attend and take instruction and examinations from their home countries. Throughout the year, however, the rules for using hybrid examinations became more stringent or less stringent, depending on the severity of the coronavirus situation.

Given the heavy burden that the hybrid examination system imposed on the organization, hybrid assessment was discontinued at the start of the 2021/2022 academic year. Written examinations that were required to be administered under supervision were administered only on campus. The possibility of taking examinations online was available only as an exception.

Graduation ceremonies

To enable students to complete their studies in a festive manner despite the restrictions, the walk-through variant was used again in 2021: together with their invited guests, students walked along a route, where they received their degree certificates, signed them, and concluded with a photo opportunity as a lasting reminder.

Study requirements

Although there were no indications that the pandemic had led to study delays, several relaxations in the BSA standards were made again in 2021. These relaxations were intended to minimize any adverse effects of the situation, including with respect to the well-being of our students. In the past year, the binding study advice (BSA) standard at Tilburg University was lowered from 42 to 36 credits, in accordance with national agreements on this point.

In 2021, the measures continued for groups of prospective students who were unable to meet the entrance requirements on time due to COVID-19. Exceptions were made for entry and progression to avoid unnecessary study delays. Students wishing to enter the Bachelor’s program with a first-year professional education certificate (Dutch HBO propedeuse or equivalent) or the pre-Master’s program at Tilburg University with a professional Bachelor’s degree certificate were admitted based on a positive completion recommendation from the university of applied sciences. In 2021/2022, students in the final phase of a Bachelor’s degree program were admitted to the corresponding Master’s degree program if they were still lacking no more than 12 credits from the prior educational program. Comparable provisions were made for progression from a professional Bachelor’s degree program to a university pre-Master’s program and from a pre-Master’s program to a Master’s degree program. Students made only limited use of these provisions.

Educational innovation: Blended education

All of the educational developments caused by COVID-19 have also provided the University with unique experiences. Several working groups were active in 2021, issuing recommendations on short-term and long-term scenarios, as well as formulating principles for the future of education. The University’s strategy was developed parallel to these efforts. Tilburg University has indicated a desire to continue using digitalization in its teaching, with the goal of achieving further improvements in the quality of our education. These efforts will be based on blended education: the combination of face-to-face and online instruction, with each of these elements reinforcing the other. This makes it possible for students to acquire knowledge and insight through guided independent study—alone or in groups, and at the time and place of their choosing. Blended education is the next step in the further development of the Tilburg educational profile. To this end, it is important to provide lecturers with opportunities to use innovations to strengthen their teaching and realize further professional development. We will do this with the help of a common platform that brings together professionalization, support, innovation, and educational research. This platform will be developed in 2022.

Tilburg Educational Profile

Further steps were taken for the Tilburg Educational Profile (TEP) in 2021 as well. The TEP is unique in the Netherlands. This plan centers on three core concepts: knowledge, skills, and character. Those who study at Tilburg University are formed into knowledgeable, self-confident, and engaged academics who understand society and can play a role in it, driven by solidarity, entrepreneurial spirit, a sense of responsibility, and empathy. All of these are values that are needed in our society.

This phase in the implementation of the educational profile focuses on deepening character development in education and orientation to the job market. Considerable attention is also devoted to assisting lecturers in the application of the TEP and character in their teaching. All Schools already have fine examples showing how character building is reflected in teaching. For example, Natascha Kienstra (TST) uses debates to build character in students. She does this using a manual that she is compiling in collaboration with COMET.

Read more about Kienstra's initiative

The following are elements of character development that Tilburg University would like to see reflected in teaching:

  • Intellectual independence

  • Critical attitude

  • Societal responsibility

  • Academic responsibility

  • Entrepreneurship

In 2021, several activities were organized to flesh out the TEP:

  • TEP Toolbox: The intranet for lecturers offers a Toolbox containing practical tips on the Tilburg Educational Profile. This TEP Toolbox include knowledge bites of and interviews with lecturers, in which they share practical tips and examples of the implementation of the educational profile in their classes.

  • A “Tafel van Martinus” (in the style of De Wereld Draait Door) on character in education is being prepared. This will take place in early 2022.

  • An overview of existing information channels for lecturers was created, and these channels were used to provide information about the TEP to lecturers.

Read about two students with a TEP story

Inclusive education

To promote well-being, Tilburg University strives to be an inclusive educational institution where students are treated equally and with respect. As a signatory to the Declaration of Intent of the UN Convention on Higher Education, a task group for Inclusive Education is working to develop a vision for inclusive education, with the objective of promoting inclusivity. This task group is conducting an inventory of problem areas in education, and it will ensure that they are addressed in a project-based manner.

University Teaching Qualification (UTQ) and Senior University Teaching Qualification (Senior UTQ)

The high percentage of lecturers (fluctuating around 90%) with UTQ certification was maintained in recent years, ranging from 88% in July 2020 to 94% in July 2021. These fluctuations were due to the appointment of new lecturers and the departure of lecturers with UTQ certification. In follow-up to the UTQ, efforts have been devoted to the Senior UTQ since 2019. Regular training courses for the Senior UTQ were started in 2020, with the goal of achieving a rate of 10% to 20% Senior UTQ certification in 2021. Efforts to this end include the development and implementation of a Senior UTQ training program. Despite the workload created by the challenges of COVID-19, the current rate is 17%. Lecturers who have taken the training course have expressed a desire for further development, and they perceived the joint learning experience highly valuable.

Flexible learning

Under certain conditions, flexible learning allows students to adjust the number of courses they will take to suit their specific personal circumstances. Tilburg University was among the first institutions to participate in the Flexible Learning pilot project. Due to the extension of this national pilot project, Tilburg University has relaxed its participation in the experiment (currently possible for up to 75 students: elite athletes, informal caregivers, entrepreneurs, and individuals with chronic illness). In the 2020/2021 academic year, 32 students utilized this option, and 29 students were using it in 2021/2022. We suspect that the need is greater, and it is therefore regrettable That we fell well short of the maximum number of students. Flexible learning is expected to be implemented on a national scale in the near future. In 2022, decisions will be made concerning the structural embedding of flexible learning.


The Bachelor’s program in Psychology has experienced massive growth in recent years. In dialogue with the other psychology degree programs in the Netherlands, an agreement has been made to adopt a quota of 600 for the academic years 2020/2021 and 2021/2022, starting in 2020. Lateral entrants to this program will also be subject to a quota in 2022.

TIAS School for Business and Society

At the start of 2021, we hoped that the worst of COVID-19 was behind us. Reality was different, unfortunately, and TIAS was forced to shift completely to online instruction in the last quarter. Even despite these measures—which persisted for longer than expected—TIAS did relatively in 2021 from an operational and business perspective.

In 2021, TIAS achieved stronger growth and results than expected. Several significant achievements occurred in the field of operations. During 2021, the cluster teams finally became operational, thereby demonstrating that interdisciplinary collaboration is not simply an ambition on paper. In addition, the JAMES project was launched, thus marking the start of our digital transformation in 2021. We will be continuing this development throughout the coming years. We have also seen the realization of the International Advisory Council, which provided a new impetus to our international ambitions. In February, TIAS successfully completed the AMBA re-accreditation process, resulting in a five-year renewal of its status as an AMBA-accredited business school. In the remainder of 2021, TIAS focused on the AACSB and NVAO re-accreditation procedures. Prior to the accreditation visit, which will take place in June 2022, a small delegation from TIAS met digitally with the chair of the AACSB review team.

Following the harsh conditions and consequences of 2020, TIAS unfortunately had to bid farewell to several colleagues. The higher-than-expected growth in 2021 made it possible to recruit new colleagues. Many of them started from home and have yet to meet their colleagues in person. Even though we expect 2022 to provide more opportunities for working on site, it is not expected that TIAS will completely return to on-site working as it was in the pre-pandemic era.

In 2021, TIAS was also closely involved in the strategic process of Tilburg University. Although TIAS was already involved and actively participating in several working groups, the cooperation with Tilburg University was strengthened substantially in 2021. This creates opportunities for deeper collaboration with mutual benefit. In the second half of 2021, TIAS entered a partnership with the University of Exeter Business School in the United Kingdom. This unique collaboration focuses on creating an international learning and networking experience for MBA students from both institutions, and provides students with the opportunity to work on real cases involving the sustainable development goals of large international companies or organizations. This project is expected to be launched in 2022, with the Royal Schiphol Group as the first business case. In 2021, TIAS also engaged in exploratory talks with the University of Basel to establish a joint Master’s degree program in Finance within the Swiss market. This partnership is expected to be finalized in the first half of 2022, with the goal of launching the Master’s program around October.