Chapter 2: Education Vision, Education Policy and Quality Culture


  • our university credo ‘Dare to Think’ is well-endorsed and captures our university’s uniqueness.This straightforward catchphrase is developed further in our ‘multiperspectivistic’ education philosophy. A continued living up to this philosophy and method ties in perfectly with the transformation towards future-proof education;
  • our six strategic education objectives are the result of a bottom-up process in the run-up to the 2016 institutional review. They have since come together in a well-endorsed, simple yet clear framework that reflects our university’s DNA. Our education policy ensures that this framework does not lapse into dogma. For that purpose, we strive for a sound balance between centralized university regulations and faculties’ autonomy. We shape our vision and (new) policy by means of interaction, stimulating our faculties’ responsibility, ownership and motivation. This balance requires a continuous alignment of university frameworks and centralized regulations, and faculties’/study programmes’ unique culture;
  • that we are a university with an education quality culture is a substantiated fact. At Ghent University, we can boast strongly involved Programme Committees – the beating heart of our quality culture. Programme Committees are responsible for developing the underlying study programme’s education policy, and for systematically monitoring education organization and the implementation of their improvement policy. Running this continuous PDCA cycle is guaranteed and monitored in the online Education Monitors. They bring together and visualize all aspects of the PDCA cycle for all those involved in the study programme and the faculty;
  • at Ghent University, we can boast passionate teaching staff who put their weight behind premium-quality academic education. Our lecturers are also excellent researchers. Students and alumni both confirm that Ghent University has trained them to become academic and critical thinkers. Our strong interconnection between education, research and critical thought is much appreciated, and becomes clearly apparent in the excellent scores on the relevant operational objectives in the Education Monitors;
  • we are proud of our long-standing tradition of student involvement. Student representatives contribute to and participate in the decision-making process on all policy levels (university, faculty, study programme). Our student representatives are committed members of all education-related councils, committees and task forces. They appreciate the fact that their voice is heard;
  • we have succeeded in translating our six strategic objectives into a common set of operational objectives on the level of the university, the faculty and the study programme by means of co-creation. As a result, it is clear to all parties concerned what Ghent University stands for and strives for in terms of education. In other words, at Ghent University we all speak the same language. There is strong congruency between study programmes’ and faculties’ self-assessment in their Education Monitors (Check) and the available data (quantitative as well as qualitative evidence). This means that these self-assessments have been carried out very minutely and accurately. Study programmes and faculties show great self-awareness when it comes to identifying points for concern and formulating effective improvement policies. In other words, they show no tendency whatsoever for window dressing. Our future-proof education is a continued commitment to our six strategic objectives as the bedrock of our education policy, with three additional key strategies: (1) future-proof curricula, (2) lifelong learning, and (3) Blend@UGent. They will undoubtedly lead to future adjustments of our operational objectives at all three policy levels;
  • our institutionally developed and university-wide monitoring instruments (course feedback, study programme feedback, Master’s dissertation survey, lecturers’ survey, alumni survey) in combination with data reports and frequent education consultations result in highly useable data and indicators. This integrated information (thanks to the UGI for Education Policy app) supports and informs systematic self-reflection, dialogue, and improvement actions. Thanks to a transparent and open data sharing – a characteristic we are proud of - among faculties and study programmes, we can perform benchmarks on each policy level;
  • the Education Monitors automatically generate quality improvement plans, clearly visualizing actions, actors, timing and progress reports;
  • our university boasts a strong partnership between its Education Department and its faculties. This partnership is based on trust, dialogue, critical reflection and co-creation. It ensures an excellent alignment in the implementation of university-wide education processes and their translation to the faculty context. We invest heavily in learning from each other by bringing people from different faculties but with similar education- related responsibilities together (staff members from the various faculty offices such as the tutorial services, study track counselling, student administration, internationalization, quality assurance), by consulting with the Directors of Studies regularly, and by organizing learning networks for Programme Committee Chairs. Faculties carry out a critical reflection in their Education Monitors at least annually, which is discussed during Annual Quality Meetings with the Education Department. The information gathered from these meetings in combination with aggregated data gathered from the faculties’ and study programmes’ Education Monitors feed the institutional Education Monitor. This, in turn, inspires the Education Department to take supportive action vis- à-vis faculties and study programmes;
  • the improvement policy of the three policy levels is interconnected via the Programme Committee Chair, the Director of Studies, the Director of Education, the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Board of Governors and the Executive Board. This interconnection ensures a quality culture in which all parties contribute to quality improvement and innovation;
  • during the pandemic, the formal and informal consultation structures, the lines of communication and partnership at the three levels, the qualitative and quantitative monitoring and review tools, the quality culture and risk management proved to be reliable enough to take appropriate crisis measures.


  • our range of study programmes should be more proof of the multiperspecitivism we want to realize. Although research at Ghent University has become more and more multidisciplinary in recent years, initiatives to embed this in study programmes are few and far between. The way in which Ghent University is organized, with separate structures, HR and finance policy plans in every faculty, creates barriers here. In line with the criteria for future-proof education, it will be key to have every study programme integrate into their curricula generic competencies as well as multi- and interdisciplinary learning opportunities, internationalization opportunities, social embedding and flexible learning pathways. We have selected twenty study programmes which will serve as pilots for an accelerated implementation of these criteria in the period of 2022-2023. As such, they will be laboratories for implementation of these criteria in other study programmes in the upcoming five years. This forces us to rethink our organizational structure, an exercise we have initiated;
  • in many study programmes, the structural input of external stakeholders, especially international and independent peers who can assess study programme content, is still in an embryonic phase. Although we have developed clear frameworks and support services, implementation is lagging. This is partly due, of course, to the pandemic. In the upcoming three years, the faculties in collaboration with the Education Quality Board will have to ensure that the international external perspective be effectively used to assess whether or not a study programme is up to par with (inter)national standards. Study programmes with an interest in expanding their opportunities, will find those within the ENLIGHT network;
  • strong involvement on the part of our students, lecturers and support staff on all levels of policy making and policy implementation entails a risk of survey fatigue and overburdening of these groups. This, in turn, can lead to decreased involvement or even a discontinuation of their involvement altogether. Not only do we need to establish a sound balance here, we also have to provide a fair recognition to students and lecturers taking up policy mandates. As far as lecturers are concerned, such a recognition is now built into the new career plan for professorial staff. For students, we have initiated a system of awarding badges for voluntary commitments. Specific badges are also being developed for student representatives;
  • a few years ago, we set ourselves the ambition that 25% of our students should graduate with an international exchange experience. Making this target explicit in the context of student mobility and the continuous reporting via UGI has created a positive dynamic since 2016. However, for several years now, the number of graduates with international experience has stagnated, which tells us that international mobility is still far from self-evident for many students. Targeted actions are still necessary. More generally, students indicated that they are not yet encouraged sufficiently to go abroad, that they do not come into contact with international students enough, and that they do not experience enough internationalization@ home initiatives. It is clear that not all students graduating from Ghent University acquire the necessary international and intercultural competencies. Students indicate, moreover, that they have little contact with international lecturers. The proportion of international staff among our doctoral students and post-doctoral staff is relatively balanced (48% and 38% respectively). Students come into contact with these staff members through practicals and the supervision of Master’s dissertations. However, the number of international members of the professorial staff is still limited. This staff section is also little involved in international education mobility. There is still room for improvement here;
  • students themselves, but also study programmes and faculties, indicate that students should be given more opportunities to acquire competences on specific themes such as sustainability, entrepreneurship and social commitment. In recent years, many steps have been taken in this direction, but the visibility and impact are still too limited in many programmes. Students also feel that they are lacking diversity competencies. A more outspoken focus on diversity in teaching practice, more attention to students with a migrant background, lower socio-economic status, international students and students working their way through university is a must. The challenges here are not only a lack of diversity in our student intake – i.e. a student population that is a better cross-section of social diversity - but also the study progress of these student groups;
  • faculties express a wish for better co-ordination between the different policies (HR, research and education). A more integrated approach of the quality improvement plan for education, incorporating HR and research, should ensure a more optimal use of resources and optimize the investment for education at programme level as well;
  • ensuring sufficient investment in and maintenance of adequate infrastructure and facilities on our various campuses is a major challenge. Ghent University has more than twenty campuses in the larger Ghent area, encompassing over 400 lecture halls and classrooms often located in historical heritage buildings. These exceptional locations come with their very specific logistical challenges, including rostering classes. At present, our education infrastructure is still quite traditional and focused on ex-cathedra teaching. The evolution towards the ‘campus of the future’ with flexible (education) spaces aimed at active learning, encounters and connectedness, and Blend@UGent, needs to accelerate. In the context of the Apollo 8 project, special infrastructural efforts are being made towards an active, hybrid and interactive on-campus future-proof education, in addition to investments for the next generation digital learning environment.