Global player: Ghent University holds “flying faculty” and campus in South Korea
Ghent University is one of the largest universities in Belgium. In comparison with other European universities, it is relatively young. The institution was inaugurated on October 9th, 1817, after King William I established three universities in the Netherlands. A total of 190 students registered then in the four faculties: Arts, Law, Medicine and Sciences. The first woman to study in Ghent entered the university in 1882. She chose to study Sciences.
Dutch became the official language of Ghent University in 1930, the year Belgium celebrated its first centennial. Before, the language of instruction from its foundation until the separation from the Netherlands was Latin, and from 1830 to 1930 it was first French.
Today Ghent University is one of the leading institutions of higher education and research in the Low Countries with 47,000 students and more than 13,000 staff members. It has 11 faculties, offers more than 200 courses and conducts research in various scientific disciplines. Under the credo “Dare to Think”, the university “challenges everyone to take a critical view of society”.
According to QS World University Ranking 2023, the University of Ghent is the second best university in Belgium and the 143th in the world. On the other hand, the Shanghai Index ranks it as the 74th best university in the world. When it comes to Veterinary Sciences, the Flemish university gets the first place in Shanghai's and CWUR's (based in the United Arab Emirates) lists.
Eminent figures and teamwork
Over the years, the professonial staff counts a number of eminent figures: jurists Jean-Jacques Haus and François Laurent, physicist Joseph Plateau, mathematician Paul Mansion, physiologist and psychiatrist Joseph Guislain, historians Henri Pirenne and Paul Fredericq, Germanic scholars Joseph Vercoullie and Henri Logeman, and zoologist and botanist Julius Mac Leod, who was also the father of the Flemish-speaking Ghent University, and Nobel Prize winners Corneille Heymans (Medicine) and Maurice Maeterlinck (Literature). Among the renowned alumni, there are examples such as Robert Cailliau (co-inventor of the Internet) and Dirk Frimout (astronaut).
In the past, the university's fame was thanks to individual scholars who taught and carried on research. In the last decades, research became a matter of teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration. With this spirit, the Ghent University joined forces in 2003 with Hogeschool Gent, Arteveldehogeschool and Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen to form the Ghent University Association.
“Flying faculty” in South Korea
With the same idea of expanding cooperation, Ghent University opened up in 2014 its first campus in Songdo, a smart city in Incheon, South Korea. Its curriculum offers three bachelor’s study programmes: Molecular Biotechnology, Environmental Technology, and Food Technology. They are taught by a permanent staff, supplemented by a ‘flying faculty’ made up of Ghent University lecturers that periodically fly to South Korea to teach four-week modules.
“I don't want to be pretentious but we are the only Belgian university to have this bonus,” said the rector Rik Van de Walle in the opening of the 2021-2022 academic year in Ghent. “The training courses provided in the global campus in South Korea were greatly appreciated by the Dutch Flemish accreditation organization which measures the quality of university education in Flanders and the Netherlands. This is extremely positive,” remarked the rector.
Van de Walle highlights that the students “make” the university. “The future of universities is not determined by deans and policy makers alone,” he stated, inviting people to “write the next chapters”.
“Be ambitious and dare to believe that you can do it. We are the university that is locally, nationally and internationally present on the stage every day again. We want to take part in the world around us in Flanders and as a global player,” the rector added.
He wraps up his speech giving advice to the students related to mobility. “Travel is the key of what we should do as young researchers,” he concludes.
© BELGA PHOTO (BENOIT DOPPAGNE) South Korea's Vice President Taejun Han welcomes Princess Astrid of Belgium to the Ghent University Global Campus (GUGC) during a visit in 2017