General Information - Back to the 50's
Now, almost forty
years on, it is difficult to appreciate fully what moved the Board of
Management of Philips to set up Philips International Institute in 1957.
Two factors played a crucial role.
Back then, science and knowledge were sacrosanct. Technology, production
automation and computer science were little-known and certainly of minor
importance. It was believed that knowledge, like water and air, should
be available to everyone. Everyone had a right to education.
It was also thought that bringing together promising young students from
all over the world would break down barriers and promote harmony - an
understandable desire after the carnage of a world war. The belief that
Western Europe and Western European multinationals should play a role
in this was quite possibly a remnant of colonial thinking.
The first years of
PII saw a broadly based curriculum, with considerable emphasis on the
contacts between the students. The latter were expected, at the end of
their studies, to return to their home country in order to apply and spread
the expertise they had acquired. A logical notion, but presumably the
PII staff was not always aware of the consequences for those returning
home. Cultural differences can sometimes be just too great.
However, time does
not stand still. Theoretical knowledge did indeed become generally available
throughout the world. Applied engineering sciences such as semiconductor
and digital technologies became more important. PII sought to adapt its
curriculum and the possibilities for practical work to these changes.
Within PII, 32 generations met and grasped the opportunity to learn about
each other's culture and ideas. Over the years, the number of Annual Reports
and Christmas cards sent to former students grew to more than 750.
In the meantime, a
number of countries outside Europe developed into industrial powers. Philips
was forced to spread its development and production centers throughout
the world and to compete on a global scale.
Although the company remained convinced that bringing together students
from all over the world was a good thing, the question arose of whether
that was also true of the idea of sending the graduates back to their
home countries. It transpired that many former students ended up joining
Philips' competitors. It was therefore decided to offer PII students the
opportunity to apply for jobs or to study for a doctorate in the Netherlands,
an opportunity that was seized by a large number of students from the
last generations to attend PII.
The difficult economic
situation within Philips led the Board of Management to decide in 1989
to close down PII and to try to pursue the objectives within the state
education system, at Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE). Thus, in
1990, PII became EII.
It was extremely fortuitous that there was sufficient space available
in the Meyboom apartment building to house each generation of EII students
as a group, so that they too could enjoy the benefits of contact.
However, the economic storms that first buffeted the large companies,
leading to massive redundancies, also created problems for the governments
of a number of Western European countries. An extensive social-security
network and large-scale unemployment necessitated cutbacks. The TUE budget
was also hit, which meant the end for EII.
Despite this disappointment,
it is pleasing to discover that a group of former PII-EII students, mostly
working in the Netherlands, has taken over the former role of Philips
and the TUE. By establishing the PII-EII International Alumni Association,
they are sustaining an ideal that has already survived for almost four
This will bring great joy to many former PII-EII staff members and lecturers.
The students have flown the PII-EII nest; a group of alumni has now taken
on the task of maintaining contact between them.
It only remains for me to express the hope that the sun will always shine
on this Association and its 800 members.
T.J. van Kessel
Director of Studies 1987-1990