KU Leuven University
Situated at the heart of Western Europe, KU Leuven has been a centre of learning for almost six centuries. The university was founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V, and as such it bears the double honour of being the oldest extant Catholic university in the world as well as the oldest university in the Low Countries. Through the ages, the university’s academic fame has attracted numerous scholars and scientists who have made valuable contributions to European culture: Desiderius Erasmus, Justus Lipsius and the father of modern anatomy, Andreas Vesalius, are only a few examples.
The University of Leuven can look back on a glorious past, but it also moves with the times. Today, international co-operation is regarded as essential for a modern university. Top-level research is judged according to international standards and implies interaction, co-operation, and exchange, both of researchers and results. As such, European surveys rank KU Leuven among the top ten European universities in terms of its scholarly output. Likewise with regard to teaching, KU Leuven can easily compete with internationally respected institutions in a large number of fields. The university's educational concept is modern, with research activities focused on the needs and aspirations of contemporary people and society. Against this background, it should come as no surprise that nowadays over ten percent of the university’s student population are international students from all over the world.
KU Leuven is located in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium, a small but dynamic country in northwestern Europe. Bordering countries are the Netherlands, France, Germany, and Luxemburg, and, across the Channel, the United Kingdom.
Leuven is bustling with student life. Unlike most university towns, it does not have a closed campus. The university buildings are spread all over town. Numerous old colleges and residence halls give Leuven the stylish face of a university town with a tradition. Its high number of international students makes it a place where numerous cultures meet and experiences are exchanged to everybody’s advantage and pleasure.
Leuven is situated in the very heart of Europe, only 20 minutes from Brussels. Amsterdam, Paris, London and Cologne are only about three hours away by train.
Specific Research Opportunities
As a university, KU Leuven distinguishes itself from other research centres by its autonomous statement of problems, by the disinterested character of its fundamental research, by its focus on education and by the fact that within its walls almost all academic disciplines are represented. In a number of fields (such as biotechnology, environment, medical research, European integration and diversity, arts and nanotechnology) the university aspires to a place among the centres of excellence in Europe and in the world.
At KU Leuven, knowledge is transferred through high quality interdisciplinary teaching. Study programs pay special attention to the integration of professional training into a broad ethical, cultural and social context of education. Rather than passing on mere factual knowledge, students are encouraged to develop their skills to identify, formulate and solve problems. Thus, the necessary conditions for a stimulating educational experience are created. Special attention is paid to the steady evaluation of the teaching process in order to enhance the students’ capacity to study independently, to provide intensive individual guidance and an adequate evaluation system, and to make sure that the teaching staff has excellent didactic qualities, making use of new teaching methods and technologies.
In addition, KU Leuven concentrates on the training of young researchers, mainly within the context of their doctoral studies. The university also offers postgraduate programs in a number of fields.
Language and Culture
This course offers an introduction to some fundamental patterns in the historical and cultural legacy of Europe, with specific reference to the Low Countries. A millennium of history is presented in a thematic framework, respecting the chronology. Topics include:
- Cities, principalities, monarchies, nations: the sources of political power, citizenship, freedom and liberty;
- Cross-culturalism and survival: the interaction of cultures and the Low Countries as a meeting place;
- Hard labour and a Burgundian lifestyle: economics and living conditions until the 18th Century;
- Historical anthropology - part I: religion, family life, women's history and education between ca. 1000 and ca. 1800;
- Town and countryside: urban culture and ecological history form the middle ages to the beginnings of mass urbanization;
- Constitutions, parliaments, the welfare state: the democratization of public life since the French revolution;
- From the industrial revolution to the information society;
- Historical anthropology - part II: religion, leisure, public & private life;
- The explosion of cultural metaphors: the internationalization of culture and society since 1800;
- War experiences: the rhetoric of 20th century history.
The course involves lectures, discussions on the basis of readings and visits to major cities like Ghent, Antwerp and Brussels.