Rob Mudde: ‘My big wish? A campus full of students’

“Loneliness is around the corner, especially for our international students,” Rob Mudde warned in Thursday’s TU Delft Talkshow. He is concerned about student well-being.

Rob Mudde: “Here you transition from a high school kid to a young adult. That is not easily done through screens.” (Photo: Dalia Madi)

TU Delft’s Vice Rector Magnificus Mudde was interviewed by moderator Desiree Hoving. “In general, our students are not doing that well,” he stated. “Their well-being is not what it should be. Corona has magnified the issues that were already there, especially the high levels of stress. Students have the feeling that they have to excel, that failing is not an option. But in a learning environment you obviously make mistakes – that is part of learning,” Mudde said in the online TU Delft Talkshow.

Is there anything we can improve, Hoving wanted to know. “I think there is. Students say that they feel that studying is now a kind of obstacle race, with so many tests that they have to pass. We can help them by just talking to them, letting them know that they do not need to excel in everything – that one does not necessarily need to be excellent in the first place.”

Personal journey

“I think it is better if students come here with the intention to accomplish something and live up to that, rather than wanting to be excellent. By its very nature, only a few percent of students can excel if you measure it by grades. But all students can have goals and try to be the best they can be. Not the best, but their best.”

He advises students to put greater emphasis on their personal journeys. “Studying is not a race, you are not competing against other students. It might help if both teaching staff and students always kept this in mind. The carrot is much better than the stick.”

‘All students can be the best they can be. Not the best, but their best’

Mudde also warned that in times of lockdown, loneliness looms. “Especially for our international students,” he said. “Loneliness highly affects your well-being. And if your well-being is not at the level it should be, how can you perform in your studies? Nobody can perform if they don’t feel well. The same holds true for students.”

Trial and error

One of the viewers asked if we should adjust our expectations towards students and their performance. “I think we should collectively adjust our expectations of what it is like to be a student, to study at TU Delft”, Mudde answered. “Sure, the level here is high. That can be expected as we want to be at the top in the world – I can’t take that away. But we could all be a little bit more relaxed, both students and teaching staff.”

“What happens if you fail an exam? You have to redo it, that’s all – the world will keep turning. You don’t need to dump your goals. But it is OK to … well … ‘fail’ is the wrong word, ‘trial and error’ is a better way of phrasing it. How do you learn to walk? By trial and error. Have you ever heard of a kid ‘failing’ to walk? No, you get up and try again. That is exactly my point here.”

The Executive Board, with (from left to right) Tim van der Hagen, Marien van der Meer and Rob Mudde. (Photo: TU Delft)
Dissipating loneliness

“If you had one wish, what would it be?” was another question from the audience. “Oh, that is an easy one: a campus full of students,” Mudde replied. “That will make a huge difference. I am pretty sure that loneliness will dissipate if it is full again here. I will never ever complain again that TU Delft is too full. The more students on campus, the better, in that respect.”


“We are a campus university, and for a reason. Here you transition from a high school kid to a young adult. That is not easily done through screens. Only half of what we do here is knowledge, the other half is personal development. Our international students need a lively environment, and our Dutch students need a lively environment. That is my big wish for the coming year.”

Marieke Enter / Nieuwsredacteur

Editor Redactie

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