Ghent University is becoming more international than ever. In fact, the university will be part of ENLIGHT, a brand-new collaboration project, together with eight other European universities. This should make it easier to take courses abroad, conduct research across the borders and team up in tackling social challenges.
Ghent University is involved in pioneering a new ‘European University’, a network with the universities of the Basque Country (Spain), Bordeaux (France), Bratislava (Slovakia), Galway (Ireland), Göttingen (Germany), Groningen (The Netherlands), Tartu (Estonia) and Uppsala (Sweden).
“Ghent University is already very heavily involved in international education and research,” says rector Rik Van de Walle. “Just think of the Erasmus exchanges, our campus in Korea, and the many ERC grants received by our researchers. With ENLIGHT we are adding yet another dimension. In a structural partnership, the nine ENLIGHT universities will not only work together, but also with their city and region, to identify social challenges and actually tackle them through education and research. In this way we wish to create, for example, new forms of education in which students work alongside researchers, citizens and companies in tackling real social issues, and in doing so work beyond the borders of their own discipline and their own university.”
“We must do more to ensure that previous hurdles disappear and create an openness between the universities”, says Gijs Coucke from the Internationalisation department at Ghent University (Department of Educational Policy), as one of the project pioneers.
“This is important in tackling major social challenges in the future”, adds head of the Educational Quality Assurance Office, Hilde van Puyenbroeck. “If the hurdles to working across the disciplines are already reduced during your studies by collaborating with students and professors across the borders, this can only benefit scientific knowledge”, believes Hilde Van Puyenbroeck.
Follow a course at a foreign university
For students, this creates the opportunity to follow courses in one of the eight other universities. Without even needing to leave Ghent. And there’s more. “ENLIGHT must also make it easier to do an entire master degree at another university”, adds Coucke.
Why is this internationalisation so important? “By learning to cope with other philosophies, cultures and languages you develop competencies that will be incredibly important in our society in the future. Helping you to broaden your horizon”, says Hilde Van Puyenbroeck, head of the Educational Quality Assurance Office.
The project also offers many opportunities for researchers. “Researchers already tend to be rather internationally oriented. ENLIGHT can be the lever to facilitate more European research. The project makes it easier to get in touch with researchers in the different universities and increases the efficiency of collaboration”, continues Gijs Coucke.
Focus on topics
Over the next three years, ENLIGHT will focus on five social topics: climate change, health and well-being, inequality, digital revolution, energy and the circular economy. Within these domains, we will look how best to manage our collaboration. “We will begin with these five important domains as a basis for development”, explains Gijs Coucke.
The project can therefore be very beneficial for both students and researchers. “It would be impossible to make all these changes in the short term. It is a long-term project in which we must look closely at the opportunities, in order to establish where and which changes are appropriate”, says the university. “Our ambitions, however, are clear”, confirms Rik Van de Walle. “With ENLIGHT, we are taking another step to make Ghent University a truly international university.”
The official kick-off of ENLIGHT is planned in early March. Various online sessions will be organised between 1 and 5 March 2021, to find out more about the project and be involved in building the future of the partnership.