The University of Hasselt has plans to add 12 new courses over the next ten years, aimed at providing the qualified staff who will be required for new industries of the future, rector Luc De Schepper said. The plan is the result of two years of consideration, driven by the fact that too many young people from Limburg bypass Uhasselt – Flanders’ newest university – in favour of Leuven, something De Schepper referred to as a “brain drain”. Once they leave the province, many never return, which has the effect of discouraging the development of new high-tech industries.
We have held extensive discussions with our social and economic partners, and they are behind the programme,” De Schepper said. The 12 courses are part of the SALK recovery plan set up by the partners on the closure of Ford Genk, to replace jobs and stimulate inward investment into Limburg.
The new courses will cover subjects like civil engineering, computer studies, bio-engineering and a master in medicine. More unusually, the university will also offer Flanders’ first master in health care engineering.
The plans have, however, met with criticism from the rector of Ghent university, Rik Van de Walle. “We need to look beyond our own interests,” he told VRT radio. Opponents believe the plans will take up a larger share of total government financing for higher education.
“We have to act in the interests of young people,” he said. “For that reason, I want to work together with other universities.” The decision for such ambitious expansion should not be one for a single institution to take, he said.
Meanwhile Flemish education minister Hilde Crevits declined to comment on the plans for the time being. She has a scheduled meeting with the rectors of all five Flemish universities in October.