The University of Antwerp has seen interest in their epidemiology program spike amid the coronavirus pandemic, a boost attributed to the popularity of a Belgian virologist advising the government.
“It seems that everyone wants to become the new Marc Van Ranst,” UAntwerp spokesperson Peter De Meyer said in a radio interview on Monday.
A graduate of KU Leuven university, Van Ranst is one of the virologists on the frontlines of Belgium’s response to the coronavirus, sitting on the government’s Risk Assessment Group (RAG) as well as on its advisory scientific committee.
“We see a spectacular increase in the number of visitors to our website, especially for the epidemiology course,” De Meyer said.”The figures have more than doubled compared to the same period last year.”
“Last year, from January to April we had 699 unique visits to the program’s webpages, while in the same period this year we have already had 1,601, an increase of 129%,” De Meyer told The Brussels Times. “We hope that this will reflect in the number of enrolments.”
The university has two versions of the program, one in English and one in Dutch, with the latter one being the least popular one among the two.
“On the Dutch-language master this year we have nine students while in the English-language one we have 41,” he said.
While throughout the years the majority of the students enrolled in the program have come from abroad, De Meyer said that the highest peak in online traffic came from within Belgium, suggesting a wave of interest among local students.
“Traffic from Belgium increased by 142%, so we expect a lot more of Belgian students to enroll,” he said, adding that it was highly likely that the ongoing pandemic had fueled the interest of prospective Belgian students in a previously overlooked discipline.
“This is the first time many Belgian students ever encounter such an event,” he said, adding that a majority of students so far came from regions in Asia or Africa which have been more regularly hit by epidemics.
The second-highest increase in traffic came from the United States, followed by the Netherlands and Benin, in West Africa.
The Brussels Times