Our Faculty

What's ITC all about?

Geoinformation management, worldwide and innovative

Building front Copyright Gerard Kuster 2007
The ITC building

The ITC Faculty of the University of Twente is a leading international knowledge hub in geospatial sciences, with an emphasis on collaborative educational and research activities in geo-information science and earth observation. Our focus is on fundamental and problem-solving research, with an eye to those complex global challenges where spatial information can make a real difference. These complex interacting challenges often relate to claims for sufficient and secure food, water, energy, health, land and housing provision.

ITC – faculty of the University of Twente

With effect from 1 January 2010 the International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC) was embedded as a faculty in the University of Twente (UT). Both parties see great advantages at national and international levels in the integration. Through the integration, ITC will be more firmly embedded in the Dutch academic education system, while the UT expects to be able to profit from ITC’s international network.

It was the Dutch Ministry of Education and Science that first proposed integrating ITC in the University of Twente (UT) as part of its policy to channel the flow of funds as much as possible through universities. UT was designated first as the coordinating university and later as the budget holder for ITC. But the die had been cast. UT has its sights set on a stronger position in the national and international arena, while ITC has an extensive international network and wants to become a part of academe. Both organisations see openings for joint education and research. ITC will be a sui generis (one of its kind) faculty, not just in terms of its location (several kilometres from the campus) but its mission as well.

The mission of ITC is twofold. At the heart lies education and research in geo-information sciences. But ITC is also committed to alleviating the shortage of skilled middle managers in developing countries with the ultimate aim of building sustainable capacity in the battle against poverty. ITC derives its sui-generis status largely from this 'ODA' (Official Development Assistance) remit.

The ODA remit of ITC is reflected in the (entirely English-taught) educational programmes and its target group: international students with hands-on experience who already have a Bachelor's degree or equivalent. ITC students are, on average, ten years older than the rest of the student body at UT. They also live in their own accommodation in the centre of Enschede.

The core of the educational curriculum consists of accredited MSc and PhD degrees. The institute also runs an (accredited) Master's programme in higher professional education, along with postgraduate diploma programmes and short courses. There is no Bachelor's programme at present because the traditional target group is mid-career professionals. Other important educational ventures - offshoots of the ODA remit - are the Joint Education Programmes with international partners.

Education and research are closely intertwined at ITC. From 1 January 2010 the research will not be managed and coordinated by a research institute - as is customary at UT - but by the faculty dean who has, to all intents and purposes, the same powers as a director of a UT research institute.

But in no way will ITC be an odd-man-out. The new rector, Professor Tom Veldkamp, certainly expects that integration with UT will raise the standard of research at his faculty even further. As UT staff members, the professors will be accorded independent rights to confer doctorates.

The International Training Centre was established in 1950 by Willem Schermerhorn, a civil engineer and the first post-war prime minister of the Netherlands. The UN was not entirely satisfied with the aerial mapping of third-world countries and colonies so it asked whether a training institute could be set up in the Netherlands. That was feasible, thanks to government funding. At that time, aerial mapping seemed a static and - quite literally - superficial exercise. But in the words of departing rector Martien Molenaar: "We are becoming increasingly aware that our education and research revolves around complex processes, social as well as physical. Though we began as an institute for aerial mapping and pinpointing locations, we have realised that fixity is a rare occurrence. Everything flows."

The new leader of ITC, Tom Veldkamp, who will continue to be known as the 'rector', foresees an interesting and useful role for himself within the UT with its - inevitable - tensions between the humanities and the exact sciences: "There are two perspectives on land use: the technical perspective and the perspective of the users. Obviously, you need to combine the two. Build bridges. I can see lots of exciting possibilities. For instance, it is important that the knowledge we generate at ITC is properly utilised in political decision-making. This opens excellent prospects for collaboration with the Faculty of Management and Governance. But the development of information technology or sensors which are already being used to monitor the state of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia are also immensely important in our field. And that's when you have to deal with scientists."

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