Report of the Board of Governors

General information

Tilburg University is an ambitious academic environment in which research and education take place. The institution has a high standing nationally and internationally in the field of scientific research and education. Although it is anchored in the region, it is also a major player in academia with a clear strategy of internationalization. Tilburg University strives to advance society by deepening the understanding of that society, particularly through the social sciences. Given Tilburg University’s bond with society, it applies excellent research to ensuring “the good life” for everyone. Tilburg University trains its students with the objective of further developing their knowledge, skills, and character. These are qualities that they will need to take on contemporary challenges.

Despite the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, many good conversations were held by and among staff, students, and administrators about the future of Tilburg University. This vision of the future serves as the foundation for the Strategic Plan entitled Weaving Minds and Characters: Strategy Towards 2027, which was adopted with broad support in 2021. Intense collaboration took place under challenging circumstances, with a great deal of creativity and perseverance to develop this new strategy. Four shared values—Curious, Connected, Caring, and Courageous—are at the heart of the new strategy, and they are sure to receive broad support. They provide direction to help staff and students take advantage of the opportunities that exist and meet the associated challenges and aspirations. This is not always easy, but a university that is approaching its centennial and that wishes to remain challenging should continue to challenge and renew itself.

The Board of Governors notes that, in 2021, a dedicated, skilled EB, together with the Deans, the Directors of the divisions and Schools, the University Council, and all staff and students, have developed a broadly supported strategy that will continue to contribute to and promote meaningful research and education for the future. The creation and content of the Strategy 2027 deserve a great deal of appreciation, particularly while the coronavirus pandemic was disrupting academic research and teaching for a second year, and staff and students were less able to see and actually meet each other.

Duties and powers of the Board of Governors

The Board of Governors monitors the objectives of Tilburg University. It internally supervises the execution of activities and the exercise of duties and powers by the EB and assists the EB by providing advice. To this end, the Board of Governors oversees the lawful acquisition and the effective and lawful allocation and use of public funds and the design of the quality assurance system, in addition to safeguarding the special signature of Tilburg University.

The Board of Governors fulfills the role of employer to the members of the EB. Within the framework of its supervisory duties, the Board of Governors also ensures that the EB, in the exercise of its duties and powers, complies with all laws, regulations, and directives pertaining to the University, as well as with the 2019 VSNU Good Governance Code for Universities.

In the exercise of its duties and powers, the Board of Governors maintains frequent contact with the EB and the University Council, and it is regularly present at Tilburg University, both within and outside the context of academic sessions and events. Other duties of the Board of Governors include establishing its powers in the Structure Regulations, deciding on the system for organizing participative decision-making, and appointing the external auditor.

The Board of Governors arranges for its own information facilities, in consultation with the EB. In addition to formal meeting documents, the Board of Governors uses other sources of information within and outside Tilburg University. Participation at the institutional level takes the form of the University Council, which is made up of staff and student members. At the decentral level, participative decision-making takes place within the Schools and divisions.

Composition of the Board of Governors

The members of the Board of Governors endorse the special identity of Tilburg University and are open to dialogue with other ideologies. The broadest possible field of academic and social currents is represented within the Board of Governors. Every possible effort is made to ensure a balanced gender ratio and other forms of diversity. Alumni of Tilburg University are also represented in the Board of Governors.

The Board of Governors currently consists of four members. All members of the Board of Governors serve in their personal capacity and perform their duties without charge or contradiction.

The President of the Board of Governors is Hugo Reumkens. The Board of Governors has an Audit Committee, comprising two members with financial expertise and chaired by Jos van Lange, with Manon Leijten as a member. The Education, Research, and Impact Committee is open to members with expertise on the primary process and is chaired by Prof. Wil van der Aalst. The Governance and Remuneration Committee is chaired by Hugo Reumkens.

In connection with her nomination for the position of Professor of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure at Tilburg University, and in accordance with the Good Governance Code for Universities, Prof. Elies van Sliedregt terminated her service as a member of the Board of Governors and its committees as of April 1, 2021. In September 2021, on the recommendation of the Dean, the EB decided to appoint Prof. Elies van Sliedregt as Professor of Criminal and Criminal Procedure at the TLS, effective November 1, 2021. With her resignation and the expected end of Prof. Wil van der Aalst’s term of appointment in 2023, it was decided to open two vacancies on the Board of Governors to nomination. The job profiles for these two vacancies were adopted in November 2021, following consultation with the EB and the Executive Committee of the University Council, after which the vacancies were advertised publicly.

The Board of Governors is responsible for the quality of its own actions and composition. It does so in transparency and with input from others, including the EB and the University Council. The remuneration of the members of the Board of Governors is based on and in line with the Standards for Remuneration Act (WNT). The Board of Governors is assisted in its work by an administrative secretary, Dr Martijn Nolen, who serves in this position alongside his work as Head of Legal Affairs at Tilburg University.

The members of the Board of Governors endorse the utility and necessity of a periodic evaluation of their own performance. Good self-evaluation contributes to the professionalism of the administration and supervision of Tilburg University. Following a self-evaluation conducted under external supervision in 2019, the Board of Governors discussed the organization of its own work and the composition of its own Board of Governors in 2021.

Looking back on 2021

The Board of Governors greatly appreciates the effort and commitment contributed by the University community. It is particularly appreciative of the manner in which staff and students have been able to progress with each other and, despite COVID-19, to meet with each other and formulate the new Strategy for 2027.

In 2021, the Board of Governors was intensely involved with Tilburg University, various discussions concerning the Strategy for 2027, and the University’s many activities. The members of the Board of Governors have maintained periodic contact with a variety of internal and external stakeholders. Within this context, regular consultations were also held between the President of the Board of Governors and University Council (and/or its Executive Committee), in addition to two consultations with the Executive Committee of the University Council in the presence of part of the Board of Governors.

The full Board of Governors met seven times (in person or online) in the presence of the EB. The various internal committees met several times in preparation for these formal meetings. In 2021, there were four formal meetings of the Audit Committee, four meetings of the Education, Research and Impact Committee, and five formal meetings of the Governance and Remuneration Committee. The Audit Committee supervised the induction of the new external auditor and oversaw and advised on matters including the Annual Statement of Accounts, compliance, accommodations policy, and treasury management. The Audit Committee also supervised the IT policy and cybersecurity, strategic Risk Management, the Budget (FIRMa), and the organization of the Internal Audit Function. The activities of the Education, Research, and Impact Committee included advising on the national education program (NPO) and the management and information system. The activities of the Governance and Remuneration Committee included recruiting new members for the Board of Governors and discussing the performance of internal governance and the University’s relationship to external partners and other stakeholders.

Prior to and during all committee meetings, members of the Board of Governors spoke (online or otherwise) with members of the EB, Deans, and Directors of divisions and Schools. The Board of Governors consulted with the University Council in the absence of the EB, and it was involved in preparation and implementation of the NPO.

Members of the Board of Governors were also present for the academic ceremonies (in person or digital). In May 2021, members of the Board of Governors took a tour of all the Schools at Tilburg University. A report of these visits was presented in the meeting of the Board of Governors, and the outcomes were discussed with the EB. During meetings and working visits, the Board of Governors discussed strategic policy themes, the resulting financial implications, the monitoring of behavior and good research practices, and the supervision of their realization. The Board of Governors also invited all Deans to its meetings in 2021, in order to allow them space to inform the Board of Governors about ongoing developments, their proposed strategies, and their wishes. This provided an opportunity for mutual discussion of the challenges facing the separate Schools. Other topics addressed in the meetings of the Board of Governors included social safety, cybersecurity, and identity.

The EB regularly informed the Board of Governors about the handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its implications for the welfare of staff and students. The Board of Governors was intensively involved in the formulation and progress of the IT policy and cybersecurity. The application of relevant legislation and regulations was reviewed and, if necessary, internal regulations were amended upon request. The administrative and organizational structure was assessed by the Board of Governors, and it meets the standards of the 2019 VSNU Good Governance Code for Universities. In this regard, the Board of Governors currently prefers to maintain the current governance model. The entry into force of the Management and Supervision of Legal Entities Act did not give cause for making any changes in the governance model. Furthermore, the checks and balances that had been situated within the business operations were monitored.

Based on the preparation by the Governance and Remuneration Committee, the Board of Governors evaluated and assessed the performance of the members of the EB and their ancillary positions according to the regular governance standards. The remuneration of the members of the EB was tested against and found in compliance with the standards specified in the WNT. The President of the Board of Governors had meetings every six months with the Minister of Education, Culture, and Science, as well as with the Presidents of the Supervisory Boards of the other universities in the Netherlands. In its capacity as an employer, the Legal Status Framework was adopted in 2021, and the regulations on declarations and expenses of members of the EB were further clarified in procedural terms.

The Board of Governors approved the 2021 Budget, the Tasks and Means Plan for 2021–2025, the Reserve Policy and—in the presence of the external auditor—the 2020 Directors’ Report and the 2020 Annual Statement of Accounts. Other matters discussed in the presence of the external auditor included the Audit Plan and the Control Plan, the Auditor’s Report, the annual Management Letter, and the Annual Statement of Accounts. The decision-making to this end was prepared by the Audit Committee.

Weaving Minds & Characters: Strategy Towards 2027

The Board of Governors and the EB met on several occasions to discuss the creation and content of Weaving Minds & Characters: Strategy Towards 2027. In particular, the text and content of the strategy were discussed during multi-day joint strategic working meetings in Leuven in September 2021. During this meeting, the Deans, the EB, and the Board of Governors had good discussions about the level of ambition, the various challenges, and the intended method of implementation. The Board of Governors has also been involved in several strategic deliberative meetings, and particularly in consultations touching upon the duties and powers of the Board of Governors.

The Board of Governors approved the Strategic Plan, Weaving Minds & Characters: Strategy Towards 2027, during its meeting on December 17, 2021. The Board of Governors notes that both the Strategy 2027 and the values identified therein—Curious, Connected, Caring, and Courageous—are widely supported and endorsed within the University community. In doing so, the Board of Governors took note of the considerations of the University Council. In the time leading up to that approval, the Board of Governors also discussed the results of the previous strategy and determined that the key objectives of growth (among others) had been achieved. As part of the new strategy, the Board of Governors has called for the pursuit of international excellence, the proper handling of growth in the number of students, and the realization of associated high-quality facilities based on clear principles and a solid financial position. In 2021, the Board of Governors further committed to ensuring that the actions of Tilburg University and of its staff and students do justice to the importance of such themes as social safety, identity, sustainability, and the importance of inclusion and diversity. This was done with an eye toward the desire for a connected academic community that is collectively moving toward the 100th anniversary of our University.

The Board of Governors notes that the entire academic community has actively contributed to the creation of Strategy 2027. It also notes that many parties were actively involved in seeking answers to societal issues. These efforts are greatly appreciated. Tilburg University’s choice for a shared vision of leadership (Connected Leading), the promotion of dialogue, openness, and transparency, and the University’s leadership team (EB, Deans, Vice Deans, and Directors) are important prerequisites for the realization of its own ambitions. It also responds to the expectations of students, staff, and citizens about the manner in which Tilburg University takes responsibility and is open to collaboration and good conversation.



On behalf of the Board of Governors,

Hugo Reumkens