The university of the future: will you soon be following classes all over Europe?

(10-02-2021) You may soon be able to follow a course from a top scientist in Bordeaux, participate in a project in the Basque Country, whilst also improving your Swedish in Uppsala.

Indeed, Ghent University will join ‘Enlight’, a brand new collaboration project together with eight other European universities.

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). The partnership aims to provide more opportunities for international study in the future in a way that works for everyone. Students will play an important role in the process, and help in shaping the future of education.

Following classes at a foreign university

“We must do more to ensure that previous hurdles disappear and create an openness between the universities”, says Gijs Coucke, as one of the project pioneers. For example, a student could include a course at Galway University because it has specific knowledge about a particular topic. At the same time you could follow an internship at Göttingen University.

“I really believe that this project can have a great impact”, says student representative Sara Helsen. “Enlight aims for significant student involvement and wishes to focus on ‘challenge-based learning’, learning by searching for solutions for social problems. This makes it very challenging.”

“Sara has really hit the nail on the head,” stresses rector Rik Van de Walle. “With Enlight, we aim to create new types of learning in which students work together with researchers, citizens and companies to tackle real social issues. We are also highly ambitious: students will be encouraged to think innovatively, work beyond the borders of both their own discipline and their own university, and to handle the great diversity and variety which is found in and outside Europe.”

So it’s not only about taking courses abroad. “Enlight also aims to make it easier to follow, for example, an entire master degree at another university”, adds Coucke.

Logo ENLIGHTScientific enrichment

Why is such internationalisation so important? “By learning to work with other philosophies, cultures and languages, you develop competencies that will be very important in our society in the future. It allows you to broaden your horizon”, explains Hilde Van Puyenbroeck, head of office in educational quality assurance.

The collaboration between the universities also increases knowledge sharing. “If hurdles to interdisciplinary collaboration with students and professors abroad are reduced during your studies, this can only benefit scientific knowledge”, believes Van Puyenbroeck. This is important in tackling large social challenges in the future.”

Social topics

It is no coincidence that Enlight is focusing on five social topics in the first three years: 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 Coucke.

The project also brings all kinds of opportunities for researchers at Ghent University. “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.”

“Our university has a really strong reputation when it comes to European collaboration”, confirms Rik Van de Walle. “We were involved when Europe first offered Erasmus scholarships, and are the true leaders when it comes to setting up Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees, master programmes which we co-organise with other European universities. With Enlight, we are taking another step to make Ghent University a truly international university.”

Join in the discussions!

The official kick-off of Enlight is planned in early March. From 1 to 5 March, various online sessions will be organised to find out more about the project and to become involved in developing future collaboration.

Since inclusion will play an important role, you can also think for yourself what Enlight can mean to you as a student. Register here and join in the discussions during the online Enlight student network pub quiz about inclusion.

You can also take part in a virtual exchange, organised by Bordeaux University. There are still a few places for students from Ghent University. Register here.