Growth at TUs: ‘Buildings overflowing with students’

The universities of technology are trying to accommodate the growth in student numbers by providing new buildings and rejigging the timetables. “We've got a lot of work to do.” But without additional funds from The Hague they are stymied, they repeat. The TU/e's Timetabling steering group is keen to focus effort on the live streaming of lectures and optimizing the planning. This should mean a 12-hour timetable can be avoided.

The universities of technology in Delft, Eindhoven, Twente and Wageningen have been saying for some time now that the growth is more than they can handle. Their coping strategies include the introduction of admission freezes on various degree programs, very much against the wishes of the Lower House of government and industry, which find this step irreconcilable with the increasing shortage of technically trained people.

Cursor reported recently that for all four TU/e degree programs (Industrial Design, Biomedical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences, and Software Science) subject to a cap on student numbers this coming academic year, registrations have exceeded the ceilings set. A decentralized admission test will decide who is and is not admitted because the 'caps’ have been exceeded for all four programs.

With TU/e is running at the physical limits of its timetables, the timetabling problem has been mapped out in recent months under the leadership of the Timetabling steering group. According to the steering group a 12-hour timetable does not offer any extra solutions, so the continuation of the current 10-hour timetable is recommended. It is proposed that more teaching take place in hours 9 and 10, and a heavy emphasis be placed on the streaming of lectures and the optimizing and monitoring of the planning.

To realize this, investment in competencies and capacity will be required. Without this investment, a 10-hour timetable is not a feasible solution. Compared to further building or renting space, the proposed solution is more cost-efficient. In addition, the steering group proposes starting 15 minutes earlier in the morning, shortening the lunch break by 15 minutes, and shortening the interval between hours 8 and 9 to 15 minutes, so that hour 10 ends at 19:00 hrs.. The steering group's recommendation is currently being submitted to the Executive Board. A decision is expected in February/March.

From the new intake figures it is evident that the number of first-years rose substantially this academic year. TU Delft and TU Eindhoven saw the biggest increase: 8 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Less than the average growth of Dutch universities as a whole, but still.   

Wageningen University, where the intake for the Bachelor's grew by 5 percent, is also busy devising solutions. Changes were made to the academic timetable back in September: lectures start ten minutes earlier and end at 7 o'clock in evening. Moreover, lessons are now slightly shorter.


The university is also increasing its offering of online education. In Eindhoven people are looking first and foremost to national government to increase funding. In order to continue to guarantee the quality and small-scale of its education, the university is not excluding the possibility, says a spokesperson, of more admission freezes in future.

In Twente more cautious steps are being taken. There were rumors that the university planned to introduce more admission freezes, but that is a misconception, says a spokesperson. What is confirmed is that the limit at University of Twente is set at twelve thousand students. At present there are not yet eleven thousand. Intake rose this academic year by 2 percent.

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