Chapter 1: About Ghent University


  • Ghent University takes on the role of a socially engaged and pluralistic university vis-à-vis our students, staff and external partners. Taking our cue from the university credo ‘Dare to Think’, our education vision ‘Multiperspectivism’, and the strong interconnection between our education and research, we occupy a leading position when it comes to finding solutions to current social challenges. In so doing, we widely surpass our local context and want to realize our ambitions at international excellence by means of a pan-institutional cooperation model;
  • Ghent University education is founded on research and recent scientific insights into the discipline. Our lecturers are (also) researchers, and most of our researchers also take on a teaching assignment. Think, for instance, of the many doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers involved in our education (practice). Ghent University research is of premium quality and internationally renowned. The strong interconnection between research and education guarantees the continuous presence of an external perspective in the shape of international peers. In so doing, we keep (the contents of) course units, main subjects, and study programmes up to date and socially relevant;
  • our strong ties with Ghent University Hospital and strategic research centres such as imec, VIB and Flanders Make contribute to our research excellence. We also co-ordinate ENLIGHT, a consortium of nine universities established as one of the European Universities networks. Our leading role in, and commitment to, various other European university networks (vice-chancellor Rik Van de Walle is president of CESAER, and Ghent University takes active part in The Guild and EUA) results in a strong integration into European education and research policy.
  • in recent years, our faculties’ policy-making capacity has increased and strengthened. Our faculties play an important role in translating institutional policy frameworks into faculty-specific policy lines and implementing them on study programme level. As such, the faculty policy level takes on an important liaison function between study programme level and university level. This liaison function results in a dual partnership with efficient communication lines, bringing together study programmes on the one hand, and the university’s policy-making bodies on the other;
  • the new career and evaluation plan for professorial staff and the new allocation model have trust, intrinsic motivation, collaboration, growth and administrative ease as their baseline. Far from being competitive, these plans and models emphasize differentiation and individual choices. Taking into account the team of which they are part, members of the professorial staff can choose their own focus when it comes to the university’s core responsibilities. The new model allows us to give short shrift to the unwanted side-effect of overvaluing quantifiable objectives (and with those, specific types of research) while undervaluing education. Together with an inclusion of education excellence (in analogy of research excellence) in fast-track promotions to the rank of full professor, the new model ensures that education-related endeavours are valued sufficiently;
  • our business intelligence system UGI ensures continuous monitoring and an evidence-based approach to policy-making and policy assessment. UGI plays a crucial role in our education policy and policy implementation, as well as in quality assurance and monitoring our quality culture. In addition, it is the bedrock of our education policy plans at all policy levels, i.e. the university, the faculty and the study programme;
  • at Ghent University we can count on the continuous involvement and enthusiasm of thousands of staff members to teach, coach, facilitate and support education practice year after academic year. This includes professorial and postdoctoral staff, who function as lecturers(-in-charge), on the one hand, and other (support) staff such as teaching assistants, tutors, administrative and technical staff, doctoral students, postdocs;
  • education policy at Ghent University is highly participatory: any decision-making requires endorsement. The active role that all (staff) sections play in vision and policy-making is not only typical of our university, it is an explicit characteristic of our quality culture.


  • Ghent University’s highly participatory governance model has its limits: decisions require clearance by many different policy levels, councils and committees, which makes decision-making difficult at times, and certainly slows it down. The balance between sufficient endorsement and sufficient effectiveness in the decisionmaking process is a delicate one. We will need to reconsider this;
  • there is room for more explicit links to Ghent University’s excellent research in the education we offer by organizing specific study programmes. For us to become a truly international university, this is a crucial step to take. We must invest further in education that is closely interconnected with excellent research, which offers learning opportunities to a Flemish and international target audience. There are a number of important conditions to be met, though, such as accessibility, financing, housing, support, language, integration, ... for/of international students. In addition, an innovative education offer can only be realized after a thorough and well-considered rationalization and optimization of our current offer. We need to review existing study programmes, main subjects, and course units thoroughly in order to make way for the future;
  • we have nearly reached our limits in terms of student numbers (over 45,000 students in initial study programmes). This steady rise is partly due to Flemish education policy that allows a fully open access to co- exist with suboptimal reorientation and study efficiency. University funding in general, and education funding in particular, insufficiently follows rising student numbers. Tuition fees for initial study programmes are laid down by decree, and as such, do not generate much additional income per student. An exception are the increased tuition fees for international study programmes (OESO study). Taken together, the above elements have a major impact on our staff’s work load and work pressure, and on investment in, and maintenance of university patrimony. They can also hold consequences for (certain types of) education innovation, in terms of education offer as well as education practice. At Ghent University, we try to cope with rising student numbers by means of evidence-based study (track) counselling, reorientation, and study progress monitoring. In addition, we continue to plead our case before the Flemish government for reasonable funding in relation to rising student numbers, and for the need to catch up on the investment envelope. The latter is currently thoroughly insufficient in the face of rapidly rising student numbers and researchers, and especially since climate legislation and insulation standards have tightened.