As you can tell, I put on weight whenever I am here (I cannot speak for the rest of the team!)...
Anyway, after a 2 hour train journey we are in the capital of the Flanders province of Belgium, Antwerp. It is renowned for being the world's leading diamond city where over 70% of all diamonds are traded.
The University of Antwerp (Universiteit Antwerpen) was established in 2003, following the merger of the RUCA, UFSIA and UIA institutes, whose roots go back to 1852. As of 2014, the University of Antwerp ranks as 170th globally according to Times Higher Education, 205th according to the QS World University Rankings and in the 301-400th place range according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
We are met at the station and driven to one of their outer campuses where much of the adminstration is based. The University was formed by merger, so has a presence on multiple sites.
We then enjoyed and debated a number of excellent presentations on employabilty, internationalisation and research management. Like in the Netherlands, the system here manages to maintain a high consistent standard across its universities.
It became clear, despite a common language, that there are significant policy differences. Again both systems often approach issues in a different way to the UK. The ability to triangulate in this manner has made this study tour quite unique.
In the evening, the University was kind enough to to take us to the University Club where we had a fantastic meal that ended with University branded Belgian chocolates.
So all in all a fitting end to a great study tour.
As always, three observations of the day's conversations.
- As in the Netherlands, Internationalisation is a strategic activity; though there are some constraints, e.g. limits on what courses can be offered in English, esp. at Bachelors level.
- The research universities have in place reasonably mature employabilty practices as it appears does the vocational/applied HE sector (Belgium has a binary system).
- Research funding has both competitive aspects as well as an allocative compnnet based on simple metrics.