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The bell tower: a symbol of regional cooperation

The bell tower: a symbol of regional cooperation

Since the early days of what was then known as Twente Technical College (THT), the bell tower and its carillon – known to students as the bell disco – has been an eye-catcher on campus. Undoubtedly an icon, the tower is also a symbol of unity between the University of Twente and the region.

The story of the carillon and the bell tower in the region of Twente goes all the way back to the years following World War II. At that time, practically everyone saw industrialization as a vitally important factor in the Dutch economy, and a committee set up by the Minister of Education recommended setting up a second university of applied sciences to function alongside the then-Technical College of Delft. But where should that institution be founded? Twente started lobbying right away!

The Foundation for Technical Higher Education for the North and East of the Netherlands was set up in 1948, the forerunner of today’s Twente University Fund. The businesses and local authorities involved in the foundation lobbied tirelessly for their region to get a university of applied sciences. They were convinced that such a college would have a positive impact on employment and give their communities a sense of purpose. Although the minister ultimately opted to set up the new university of applied sciences in Eindhoven, it was clear very soon after it opened in 1956 that even with this second institute it was impossible to meet the explosive demand for engineers.

So the lobbyists came back out in force, and partly due to their efforts the government decided to found the THT in Twente (you can read more about this in Canon). In the words of Minister of Education Jo Cals, ‘The powers of persuasion that were deployed […] to call for a university of applied sciences to be established on Drienerlo, together with the self-sacrifice shown by industry actors and other businesses, gives the undersigned reason to expect that, regarding the branch of a technical university of applied sciences in Twente, powerful support can be expected from the local authorities and the population of this area.’

To distinguish itself from existing technical colleges, the THT decided to structure its teaching along the lines of American campuses. The mayors of the Cooperative of Twente Oost-Gelderland felt that this remarkable educational model merited a remarkable gift, and they commissioned famous architect and designer Gerrit Rietveld to design a bell tower and carillon that would give the campus an American-style air of distinction. The gift is a wonderful reminder of the huge efforts made by the people of the local region: the cherry on the cake for the new university of applied sciences.

The mayors presented their gift at the opening ceremony in September 1964. A little over six months later, in May 1965, they paid another visit to the campus, when the municipalities’ commitment to the new institute was described very aptly: ‘No one should assume from the name T.H.T. that it is only Twente that has a close bond with this university of applied sciences. Throughout the East of the Netherlands, Drienerlo aims to stimulate interest in academic education, re-integrate study programmes and student life and find the right balance between regional and national interests.’ So the bell tower, together with its carillon, was not only a wonderful gift to the brand-new campus; it was also a reminder of the equally amazing ‘teamwork’ among the whole of the East of the Netherlands in their lobbying to get a university of applied sciences.

In line with the campus philosophy, the THT initially decided not to employ an official bell-ringer: the students and staff would make their own music. It was soon made clear, however, that there was nothing for it: they would have to hire a bell-ringer, since no one knew how to play a carillon... An association was founded specially for the bell tower: the Campus Beiaard Kring. A bell-ringer came to teach the students, who played the carillon with great enthusiasm, and the Campus Beiaard Kring organized all kinds of events, including the annual Carillon Festijn.

About ten years ago, cuts to funding for culture put a stop to the bell-ringing lessons. Interest in the carillon waned, and the Campus Beiaard Kring was disbanded.

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