Call for International Thematic Networks - 2020

1. Scope of the call

Ghent University’s ITN portfolio currently comprises 10 International Thematic Networks, covering a wide and diversified range of interdisciplinary themes and involving partner networks from all continents across the globe.[1]

The ITN portfolio is dynamic in two ways: (1) Each individual ITN has been given the opportunity to evolve within the chosen interdisciplinary theme and develop the most efficient structure for cooperation. (2) As a whole the ITN portfolio is not static: with a dynamic portfolio Ghent University wishes to adapt to new emerging themes for cooperation in our changing global and social context, as well as to explore new cooperation and new partners to increase its visibility and impact on the international stage.

In order to stimulate the further development of the ITN portfolio, a new call for International Thematic Networks (2021-2025) with a total budget of 120.000 € is open to support both the renewal of existing ITN (at the end of their first 5-year period) and the startup of new ITN proposals:

  1. Existing International Thematic Networks can apply for extended funding. Existing ITN who are at the end of the first 5-year funding period can re-apply for a second funding period with reduced (50 %) UGent funding support;

 2. Proposals for new International Thematic Networks.

2. Context: the Integrated Policy plan for Internationalization

In the framework of the Integrated Policy Plan for Internationalisation Ghent University intends to make effective and strategic choices with regard to international cooperation and qualitative partnerships.

Three models for strategic international cooperation have been put forward: (1) International Thematic Networks; (2) Regional Platforms and (3) Institutional Strategic Partnerships. 

The goals for Ghent University’s strategic international cooperation are:

  • To strengthen the link between research, education and service to society, within an international context;
  • To enhance visibility and impact of Ghent University in the international environment, by coordinating long-term partnerships in order to consolidate the leading role of Ghent University;
  • To seize opportunities (networking, funding...) within the international environment to enhance the impact of Ghent University.

Special emphasis is put on collaborations that:

  • Focus on networking with high level and/or high potential partners; 
  • Focus on networking with countries, regions or around themes of strategic importance for Ghent University; 
  • Collaborate with partners in the South with a strong focus on human capacity building;
  • Align themselves with the overall strategic goals of Ghent University and ethical framework for sustainable development and internationalization.

Three models for strategic international cooperation have been put forward: (1) International Thematic Networks; (2) Regional Platforms and (3) Institutional Strategic Partnerships. 

Further, with the strategic international cooperation the Integrated Policy Plan for Internationalization 2019-2023 aims to contribute to the university-wide policy choices of Ghent University: (1) Activating learning, (2) Diversity, (3) Talent management, (4) Sustainability, (5) Enhanced alumni activity, and (6) Strengthening of Ghent University’s social identity.

3. Ghent University International Thematic Networks

3. 1. Definition & role

An international thematic network is a body for support, cooperation and advice consisting of Ghent University staff members and international partners concerning a specific topic of excellence in education and research at Ghent University with societal relevance and impact.

The network of international partners offers an added value through synergy by strengthening the existing capacity and expertise within Ghent University, and/or strengthening the capacity of partners in the South.

The network offers support to members of the Ghent University community in the chosen disciplines to engage internationally. It supports the development of new initiatives in mobility, research, education and service to society. It strives for an increase both in the quality and in resources for the work done within Ghent University around this theme.

Further, the network promotes the excellence of the institution in this field, thus contributing to the position as an important partner in education, research and service to society and to the international Ghent University brand in general.

According to the main focus of interest several types of ITN can be identified (e.g.):

  1. ITN with objective of strengthening the existing excellence at Ghent University. For this category a main criterion is to prove the own international excellence and the added value of adding international partners to exploit and to promote this excellence; 
  2. ITN with the objective of strengthening the capacity of partners in the South. For this category a main criterion is to prove the excellence of the capacity of UGent and other Northern partners on the topic and the way the transfer of this knowledge is realised
  3. ITN with the objective of strengthening Ghent University’s own capacity through the network. For this category, the main criterion is to prove the importance of the theme for the international position of UGent and how the excellence of the international partners will contribute to realize this international position

In the proposal the coordinator has to indicate based on the focus of the ITN project, but this does not exclude other objectives or a combination of the above objectives. 

3.2. Structure and responsibilities

Each international thematic network is composed of an interdisciplinary group of at least three Ghent University professorial (ZAP) and/or post-doc staff members, and professorial/post-doc staff members of minimum three different non-Flemish higher education partner organizations. See full guidelines to the call. 

The network is coordinated by a Ghent University professorial staff member (ZAP) as chair of the steering committee with representations of Ghent University and the international partner organizations. The coordinator is responsible for the development, the implementation and the organization of the network’s initiatives and acts as the sole authorized person for the granted budget. 

3.3. Support & funding

Ghent University supports the network with funds for coordination, earmarking of internal education and research funds, and free use of available facilities for institution wide dissemination activities (e.g. conference rooms,…).

The ITN allowance is considered to be start-up financing and/or seed money with the aim of creating the structure and capacity to initiate coordinated cooperation actions, to generate new project funding, and eventually to become sustainable in the long term.

New International Thematic Networks receive a funding amount of 60.000 € per year for a period of 5 years for coordination (including but not restricted to personnel costs, operational costs, travel etc.). Upon completion and successful evaluation of a first 5-year period, existing International Thematic Networks can re-apply for a second 5-year funding period with reduced funding support of 30.000 €  per year. The max. funding duration for ITNs is limited to 10 years. After two 5-year funding periods the ITN cannot apply for further renewal, but may further benefit from the general and technical support from the central internationalization services upon agreement. The starting date of the funding period in the framework of the call 2021-2025 is set on 1 April 2021. 

The network is required to contribute and demonstrate co-funding in addition to the Ghent University allowance, so that the total turnover of the ITN amounts to min. 120.000 € per year (or min. 600.000 € for the full duration of the 5-year funding period). This implies that the ITN have to demonstrate a co-funding of 60.000 € per year during their first 5-year funding period, and 90.000 € per year during their second 5-year funding period.

The sort of co-funding is undefined, but the amount of co-funding must be real and verifiable. It may result from external sources (obtained from national and international funding programmes), and/or be contributed by the partner universities themselves to demonstrate and/or ensure a sustainable commitment to achieve the goals of the ITN. Examples of such co-funding contributions are consortium membership fees, travel costs, organizational costs (workshops, summer schools …), wages for well-defined verifiable tasks (PhD, visiting staff, supporting staff), …

The co-funding may be unequal between partners (both the involved Ghent University groups as the external partners), but the full proposal must be clear in how the co-funding is realized and which partners contribute.

4. Procedure

The selection procedure for ITN is divided into two rounds.

1. In the first round,

  • applicants for new ITN are asked to submit a Declaration of Intent (DoI) which is conceived as a brief pre-proposal focusing on a project concept.
  • existing ITN are asked to submit a full Evaluation report about the 1st funding period, including a Request for Renewal, focusing on the added value of a second funding period

The Declaration of Intent and Request of Renewal will be evaluated by a designated selection committee, composed of faculty representatives and representatives of the central depts.

2. The positive evaluation of the Declaration of Intent/Request for Renewal is required for entering the second round comprising the submission of a Full Proposal.

The Full Proposals will be evaluated by the Expert Group on Internationalization and confirmed by the Executive Board.

Applicants must submit their Declaration of Intent/Request for Renewal by Fri 20/11/2020, 12:00h and the Full proposal (after positive evaluation of the declaration of intent) by Fri 19/02/2021, 12:00h.

5. Application

See available downloads below of the forms for Declaration of Intent and Full Proposal.

6. Evaluation Criteria

The selection will be based on the following specific evaluation criteria, in addition to the overall goals for the Ghent University strategic international cooperation:



A. Re-application: Evaluation Report/Request for Renewal

  • Overall quality of the report
  • Extent in which initial goals have been achieved during first funding period
  • Quantitative and qualitative demonstration of performance and impact of the first funding period
  • Justification and added value of a second funding period
  • Continued added value of the ITN for Ghent University: how will the ITN further reinforce the university-wide policy choices and international strategy of Ghent University?

B. New proposals: Declaration of Intent: key criteria concern the main topic and branding

  • Justification of the proposed theme of the network
  • Added value of the ITN for Ghent University: how will the ITN reinforce the university-wide policy choices and international strategy of Ghent University?
  • Societal impact


ROUND 2 – Full Proposal

  • Overall quality of the proposal with
    • the clear links between research, education and services to society
    • the implementation of the main objective of the ITN (as one of three types of ITN)
    • the opportunities for the Ghent University community in the international environment
    • feasibility of the proposed activities
    • networking plan
    • innovative character and enhanced impact of second funding period
  • Expected outcomes (co-publications, gradually approach to joint PhDs, jointly organized educational programmes, capacity building projects,…)
  • Proposed management structure (with emphasis on the role of the partners, with special emphasis on the importance for Ghent University)
  • Proposed financial plan

7. Practical Guidelines

The declaration of intent and the full proposal need to be written in English within the prepared template. The text needs to be written in font Arial 10, spacing 1.15.

The proposals need to be submitted in a complete paper version before the deadline at the secretariat of the International Relations Office, address: Het Pand, Onderbergen 1, 9000 Gent.

Upon submitting a signed proof of receipt will be given, containing the reference number of the proposal. This number will be used in all communication concerning the proposal.

Any failure to comply with the above described guidelines will lead to the ineligibility of the proposal.

8. Selection result

The Ghent University promoter will receive a letter from the Director for Internationalization with the selection result of his/her application. Details on the feedback procedure will be mentioned in this letter. 

9. Reporting and Evaluation

All selected international thematic networks annually report about their activities to the Director in the framework of the Ghent University Annual Report (Jaarverslag).

At the end of the funding period of 5 years an overall evaluation will be made by the Expert Group for Internationalisation.

10. More information & downloads

For further general information about this funding programme, please contact

Available for download