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Happy 50th birthday KU Leuven!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the year when the Catholic University of Leuven became a fully Flemish, independent university. Founded in 1425, the University of Leuven worked as a bi-lingual university until 1968, when Flemish students took the street and demanded that courses were given in their Dutch language. This led to the separation of the university in two separate entities: the French-speaking Université Catholique de Louvain and the Dutch-speaking Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven). 

Since then, KU Leuven has been distinctly Flemish and international, strengthening more and more its reputation of a high-quality higher education institution: 5th in the Reuters World Ranking of Most Innovative Universities (2017), 47th in the Times Higher Education World University Ranking (2017-2018), 71st in the QS World University Ranking (2017-2018). Furthermore, KU Leuven is the 6th university in the EC Horizon 2020 programme and the 10th university in the ERC grants programme with over 110 projects. 

The academic offer of KU Leuven reflects its mission to be as international as possible: 78 Bachelor programmes (4 in English), 205 Master programmes (62 in English, 1 in French), 44 advanced Master programmes (24 in English) and 7 Erasmus Mundus programmes. KU Leuven also offers a number of co-operative programmes: 39 joint degrees, 28 double degrees, 43 programmes organised with international partners. International students amount to 9,844, which corresponds to 17% of the total number of students (around 55,000).  


On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of KU Leuven, an international symposium was held at KU Leuven on 4 May on the theme Internationalisation of Universities and the national language. Internationalisation is strictly linked to language, and today English is by far the most powerful language in the world. It already is the common language of research and education. How to deal with this dominance of English? How do we choose a language for academia these days? In short, how can we be international but at the same time champion the use of the national language? The conference brought together a number of HE experts from different parts of the world, who all tried to answer this very simple, but at the same time very challenging question. 

The first round of speakers addressed the topic English as the common language of research and of international university education. Prof. Karen Lauridsen held a presentation on Multilingual Learning in an internationally oriented university, in which she explored the link between multilingualism and multiculturalism; Prof. Ulrich Ammon, addressed the topic of the advantages and disadvantages of the use of English as the common language of Research, with a focus on Germany; Prof. Manuel Célio Conceição spoke on The policy of the European Language Council and the internationalisation of universities. 

The last part of the symposium focused on Beyond language: how to bring international visitors in contact with the local culture? Here, different case-studies were presented, showing the perspectives of Ghent University; the Nordic region and their work with on Parallel Language policies; Estonia; Slovenia. Other more specific cases came from Wales, Catalonia, Aruba, and South-Africa. These insights were necessary also to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, because this issue is also linked to the general context of each country and their respective language. 

You can access the full presentations here