Fifty years of High Tech Human Touch: the University of Twente, which at its founding in 1961 was still called the Twente Technological University of Applied Sciences (in Dutch: THT Technische Hogeschool Twente), managed to distinguish itself early on by integrating technology with the social sciences. In addition, the 'third technical university of applied sciences' also distinguished itself with her campus terrain and approach to education.
In 1961, the House of Representatives agreed to the establishment of a third technical university of applied sciences in Enschede. Enschede was selected to be the location over Alkmaar and Deventer. The existence of a strong manufacturing industry (textiles, metal, electrical engineering, chemicals), the necessity for innovation of the textile industry and the firm lobby of that textile industry together with the Eastern government agencies, probably were important factors in making this decision. Just as the fact that the municipality of Enschede made the Drienerlo estate available for the first campus University of the Netherlands, this probably was an important factor in making this decision.
Architects ir. W. van Tijden and ir. S.J. van Embden on the Drienerlo estate
Construction started in September 1962. The assignment given to the architects ir. W. van Tijen and ir. S.J. van Embden, was as follows: create a great technical university of applied sciences. The severe winter halted construction for a long time. The University of Twente, then still called the THT, was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Juliana on 14 September 1964. The first class consisted of two hundred students, including four girls. It wasn't until the summer of 1986 that the university received her current name: the University of Twente. This was the result of the changes in the Dutch Academic Education Act in 1984, as a result of which Dutch HBO schools could take the name University of applied sciences. It was decided to change the name in order to prevent confusion. In 2011 the university celebrated her 50th Dies Natalis in the company of Queen Beatrix.
UNIVERSITY OF TWENTE CANON
On 14 September 1964, three years after the institute was founded, a cohort of around 200 students began their studies at “Technische Hogeschool Twente” (Twente Technical College).
55 years and 49,000 students later, we have a rich history to look back on. Administrative decisions, developments in the community, memorable events and the efforts of a lot of different key persons are the building blocks that have made the University of Twente into an entrepreneurial university that’s not just High Tech, but that also makes room for the Human Touch. We’ve selected the most relevant building blocks to add to the University of Twente canon as ‘windows’ into our back story.
The canon is constantly evolving and is open to debate and discussion. Is there an event, feature or key person you think should be included? Add your own story!
Ank Bijleveld, the first alumnus to become a minister
University of Twente alumni have gone on to succeed in a very diverse range of roles. Alumna Ank Bijleveld made it to a very special position: she is the first University of Twente alumnus – male or female – to become a government minister.
In 2011 the University of Twente celebrated its 50th anniversary. The entire year students, staff and alumni could partake in the joyful celebrations!
For many years visitors to the campus used to pass the characterful reception desk ‘Charlie’, until its demolition in 2011. It was built in 1996 according to a design by Peter Defesche, and (though no one can remember why) it was made to resemble a tugboat.
2010 saw the publication of Peter Buwalda’s debut novel, Bonita Avenue, that went on to become a huge bestseller. But what does a novel have to do with the University of Twente?
The storming of the Bastille
Scrambling through the mud, conquering slippery inflatable obstacles and climbing to the top of the Bastille: it’s all worth it for prospective students looking to fully enjoy student life at the University of Twente. The storming of the Bastille building is one of the highlights of the induction period.
The ITC becomes the sixth faculty at the University of Twente
In 2010, the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) officially became part of the University of Twente, forming the sixth faculty. The institute, which dates back to before the University of Twente was founded, has a long and fascinating history.
The many and varied University of Twente logos
In 2009, the old University of Twente logo and wordmark were replaced by ‘just’ a wordmark. Never had an adjustment to a house style caused so much fuss...
Professor Hans Achterhuis, the first-ever ‘Denker des Vaderlands’
After becoming professor emeritus of philosophy, Professor Hans Achterhuis, who taught at University of Twente from 1990 to 2007, was honoured as the first-ever Denker des Vaderlands (Philosopher Laureate). The NRC described Achterhuis as one of ‘the 12 greatest philosophers in the Netherlands, thinkers who change the way we see the world’.
Tonnie Buitink and his Enschede Team
Spanning 43 years, Tonnie Buitink’s service to the University of Twente would be hard to beat. From Campuspop to the Batavieren Race, and from the Solar Race to Green Vibrations, ‘Mister UT’ has seen it all.
Rector magnificus Frans van Vught
Seldom has the University of Twente had a more remarkable or more influential leader than Frans van Vught, the rector magnificus who guided the University of Twente through some of its most turbulent times.
The fire in the TW/RC building
The morning of 20 November 2002 is etched into the memories of many University of Twente staff, students and alumni: that was when a raging fire turned a large section of the then TW/RC building (now Cubicus) to ash. It was later found to be a case of arson – by a university employee, no less.
The campus geese
The campus is a place that everyone can call home – including our geese. When a group of wild geese landed on the Ganzenveld (‘Goose Field’, later named in their honour), they became part of the campus community. The strength of the University of Twente’s attachment to its geese was tested when the geese started causing serious problems – but the community just couldn’t say goodbye to them...
Professor David Reinhoudt, one quarter of the ‘Golden Quartet’
Professor emeritus David Reinhoudt is in good company: together with Nobel Prize winner Ben Feringa, Roeland Nolte and Bert Meijer, he forms what is known in supramolecular chemistry circles as the Gouden Kwartet (Golden Quartet).
Cees Links, inventor of Wi-Fi
‘Home is where the Wi-Fi connects automatically’ – nowadays you can even get it printed on a T-shirt. We can’t imagine life without it now, but most people have no idea that we have a University of Twente alumnus to thank for our Wi-Fi connections: Cees Links. The road to the breakthrough may have been long and winding, but that breakthrough did eventually come – as a result of a nice cup of American coffee with a certain Steve Jobs...
Since the end of the 1990s the Pakkerij has been a feature of student life in Twente. This former warehouse on Oude Markt in Enschede is home to four big student clubs and symbolizes the long-standing competition between the campus and the city of Enschede to attract students.
The Batavieren Race
Every year, the world’s biggest relay race finishes on the campus of University of Twente, marking the start of the biggest student party in the Benelux. Every student here – plus a lot of students from further afield! – knows about the Batavieren Race. But did you know that the finish line of the 175-kilometre race used to be on the other side of the country?
Do you remember the days when paying your bills meant using one of those printed bank payment slips? Nowadays, of course, you can transfer money to someone with just a few clicks of your mouse or a couple of taps on your mobile screen, but not so long ago we used to have to do everything on paper. At least, that was the case until the Twente Technical College developed the Technical University Multiprocessor, or ‘TUMULT’.
The Nauta switch
It was 1987. Bram Nauta had just begun his PhD research. He was enjoying a quiet swim when suddenly an idea came to him that would revolutionize wireless communication. He climbed straight out of the pool and asked the pool manager for pen and paper. What emerged from this epiphany was a super-fast electronic switch that is now fitted as standard in almost every device we use today.
Rector magnificus Harry van den Kroonenberg
‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’ rector magnificus Harry van den Kroonenberg didn’t believe in ‘problems’, only ‘challenges and opportunities’. He is known as the spiritual father of ‘the entrepreneurial university’, but his contribution to the University of Twente goes much further.
The TOP Programme
What do Xsens, Aryzon, Booking.com, Thuisbezorgd.nl, DEMCON and Clear Flight Solutions have in common? That’s simple: these successful companies were all founded by University of Twente alumni, and, above all, the fledgling enterprises all benefited from the support of the TOP Programme.
De Hallen was the very first building to be constructed when the campus was first laid out. It’s a true utilitarian structure, a great combination of form and function. The representative curator and head of construction firm Stheeman remarked that ‘maybe women won’t think it’s attractive, but men will, because it’s so amazingly practical’.
Student activism and student self-government took center stage at Technische Hogeschool Twente (‘Twente Technical College’, THT) right from the start. The new college was set up to produce homo universalis, something the Netherlands was more than ready for.
The Little Tower of Drienerlo
Question: What does the Torentje van Drienerlo (the Little Tower of Drienerlo) have in common with the voice of Kermit and Ernie in the Dutch version of Sesame Street, TV celebrity Sjef van Oekel and the legendary Dutch radio show Ronflonflon?
Professor Arie Duijvestijn and the Scottish Book
In the 1930s and 1940s, a group of mathematicians used to meet regularly in the Scottish Café in what was then the Polish city of Lwów. During their meetings they scribbled down 193 mathematical problems in a notebook that later became famous as the Scottish Book. The man who solved problem 59 from that book was none other than University of Twente professor Arie Duijvestijn.
Campus Officer Roelof Strijker
Before Technische Hogeschool Twente (‘Twente Technical College’) was founded, Drienerlo was just a quiet country estate. The land was part of the regular beat of police officer Roelof Strijker, who didn’t have to work too hard to keep it in order. All that changed in 1964, when the first students arrived and Strijker was suddenly very busy. His role was transformed: no longer largely an overseer, he was now the central point of contact for the students – and for the people who were less than pleased with the new arrivals.
Campus landlady ‘Ma’ Elsenburg
Living away from home for the first time is an important part of student life, and of growing up. Far from the shelter of their parents’ nest, the chicks suddenly have to fend for themselves, including doing their own household tasks: buying groceries, cooking, doing the laundry and (when it gets really bad) even cleaning. But that was not the case for the first students at Twente Technical College: they were taken under the wing of campus landlady ‘Ma’ Elsenburg.
Het Ding (‘The Thing’)
In the dark of the night between 11 and 12 April 1974, the face of the campus changed forever. The change happened literally overnight, and there was no going back: Het Ding (‘The Thing’) had arrived. From its appearance as if from nowhere one spring night, this work of art has evolved into a symbol.
The occupation of the BB building
Protest! Successive generations of University of Twente students manned the barricades between 1972 and 1996 to protest against new legislation. In those days a key strategy was to occupy the BB building (the Dutch abbreviation for ‘management and administration’, now the Spiegel building). What made the students take such drastic measures, and what did they actually achieve?
Professor Piet Bergveld and the ISFET sensor
In 2003, after 38 years of service at the university, professor of Biosensors Piet Bergveld bade farewell to University of Twente. He was passionate about technology that brings practical benefits to people and their health. He is most famous for inventing the ISFET sensor used in chemical and biomedical applications, and he took also part in the foundation of the MESA+ research institute.
The campus: an experiment in the woods, led by Campus Dean Jan Schuijer
In the early 1960s, the former country estate of Drienerlo was transformed into the proving ground for a daring experiment: a technical college (‘technische hogeschool’) based on the American residential system – which is to say, with a campus that combined living, studying, working ... and partying.
The DHC Boortoren
The Boortoren (‘drilling tower’), the clubhouse of hockey club Drienerlose Hockey Club (DHC), has been a feature of the campus since 1969. In 2016, this clubhouse was declared the most unusual hockey clubhouse in the Netherlands: a ‘towering’ achievement!
‘A beautiful woman with cumbersome jewellery’: the Bastille building. The building, designed in 1969 by architect Piet Blom, was intended to be a miniature town, a place of academic encounters and free student living. She was definitely a beauty, no doubt about that. But honestly, that jewellery...
When you hear the name of the University of Twente, you’re bound to think of… Professor Jan Kreiken, management guru and rector magnificus (1925 - 2001). ‘The future cannot be predicted: we have to make it ourselves’ was one of his most memorable bons mots, emphasising the importance of innovation.
Abe Lenstra, trainer at Drienerlo football club
Some say he was the best Dutch footballer ever to play the game: Abe Lenstra, the Johan Cruijff of his time. For nine years, the team that had the honour of being trained by this great man was ... Drienerlo football club. He was appointed in 1968, but – as a sign of the times – despite his status as a sporting hero the students refused to sanction his appointment.
Now they regularly perform to packed houses, but it wasn’t so long ago that they were taking the first steps in their career in the Vrijhof: artists such as the poet Jules Deelder, the comedian Najib Amhali and all-round performer Jochem Myjer. Why the Vrijhof? Thanks to the longest-running theatre series in the Netherlands - Broodje Cultuur, which translates as ‘Culture Sandwich’. It was held at lunchtimes, it was free to get in and there were even sandwiches - a culture snack in between lectures. The perfect way to get students in touch with and interested in culture. It’s a tradition that came to an end after 47 years, when Broodje Cultuur was relocated to the city centre in 2014.
Professor M.P. Breedveld and the white engineer
The first generations of alumni may still remember him, but for many people their first association with M.P. Breedveld (1912–1997) will be the room in the Waaier building that bears his name – an honour not granted to just anyone.
Professor Gerrit Blaauw, computer pioneer
Before Gerrit Blaauw began lecturing in Digital Technologies at Technische Hogeschool Twente (‘Twente Technical College’), he was involved in some amazing projects. He was part of the team that worked on both the first computer in the Netherlands and the development of the IBM System/360 mainframe computer: he was a true computer pioneer.
The country estate of Drienerlo and the Boerderij
In their lobbying efforts for a technical college in Twente, the Municipality of Enschede had a serious trump card up their sleeve: the country estate of Drienerlo, situated between Hengelo and Enschede. The University of Twente still bears reminders of the name of the estate today.
The ’Hankering House’
Today, in 2020, our campus is still sometimes seen as a man's world. But back in 1964, when the first student cohort of 244 men and 3 women arrived, that was certainly the case. When the University of Twente had first been set up three years previously, it was even stated that ‘girls study for purposes other than to become engineers’. So the campus was poorly equipped for the arrival of female students, and when the first female students did arrive along with the first cohort, Twente was faced with a few unforeseen problems.
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.
Rector magnificus Gerrit Berkhoff
The first rector magnificus of Technische Hogeschool Twente (‘Twente Technical College’) was Gerrit Berkhoff, a man whose revolutionary ideas about the campus community mean he can safely be categorized as one of the most influential rectors our university has ever known.
1964: the opening of Twente Technical College
In 2017, the University of Twente passed a remarkable milestone: its 10,000th student registration. That’s quite an achievement, considering the first student intake in 1964 consisted of just 247 young men and women. Those very first first-years were welcomed onto campus with a festive introduction period, culminating in the official opening on 14 September 1964.
How the University of Twente Funds Foundation came into being
The story of the University of Twente actually goes all the way back to the years after 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 what was then the Technical College of Delft. But where should that institution be founded? Twente started lobbying right away!