Studying in interdisciplinary teams on real-life projects; students, lecturers, and entrepreneurs inspiring and challenging each other to come up with creative solutions, to expand networks, and to chart a course for lifelong growth; research lecturers collaborating with businesses and organisations to develop practical know-how. This is what Karel de Grote University of Applied Sciences and Arts (KdG) believes is the higher education of the future.
In the building of campus Meir, a brand new site in the heart of Antwerp, the architecture is already geared up for this new world of study. “KdG is striving towards shared learning, living and working, since we all learn from one another. Interaction – between students, lecturers and professionals in every possible field – is central to this. On the new campus, a 600m² Business Lab will facilitate contact between the business world and students, offering a place where student start-ups and leading businesses can bounce ideas off each other. Learning spaces consist of lounges, flexible classrooms and project spaces which focus primarily on coaching and collaboration, real-life learning and experimentation,” explains Veerle Hendrickx, President of KdG.
“In the KdG Business Lab, students will collaborate with businesses and organisations working on projects and sustainable solutions. The lab is also a physical space where partners in education, over the course of a year, can hire a workplace to seek out new opportunities for collaboration and to connect with new generations of students. In addition, it provides a base for entrepreneurial students who are both studying for a bachelor’s degree and working on their own start-up. These student entrepreneurs can count on coaching from their lecturers, who have experience in both education and business. On top of this, they also receive guidance from external professionals who are helping to develop our Centre for Entrepreneurs,” says Vicky Van Bouwel, Faculty Director Management & IT.
So no pipettes, Bunsen burners or microscopes for the KdG Business Lab, but instead, an infrastructure where seasoned and fledgling professionals can tackle complex challenges. The lab is surrounded by learning lounges, a coffee corner and pitch arenas. “We focus on three things: entrepreneurship, matchmaking and KdG Academy. Entrepreneurship means developing business skills, chancing it, taking initiatives, learning from your mistakes, effective networking and collaborating, setting up start-ups and spin-offs, but just as importantly, carrying out applied research into the public impact of events. Matchmaking is all about personal growth, prospects and collaboration. Internships and business projects on which students work together, but also, for example, our Career Center where alumni can top up on job happiness. Above all, KdG Academy is about lifelong learning, from 18 to 81: micro-degrees, flexible programmes, conferences, seminars, postgraduate programmes, etc. In short, further training of every shape and size and an innovation showcase as eye-catcher,” adds Van Bouwel.
Graduating with your own business? At KdG, any second or third-year bachelor student can take part in the [email protected] competition. Every year, a number of students are given the opportunity to make their entrepreneurial dream come true as part of their studies. It is a strenuous programme, an intensive boot camp with year-long one-to-one coaching by an entrepreneur-lecturer. But even the runners-up who still want to set up their own business, can count on a great deal of support via the KdG Centre for Entrepreneurs. The spirit of enterprise, in the sense of taking initiatives, is drilled into all students.
Public Impact expertise centre
Concerts, conferences, jumble sales: whenever people get together in person, something magical happens, we can all sense it. At the same time, bringing large groups of people together can present a multiplicity of challenges. The coronavirus crisis has made this more challenging and topical than ever. How can we organise events that are safe, sustainable, enriching and inclusive? How, in an urban setting, can events be organised in such a way that they create added value for visitors, residents and businesses alike? The KdG Public Impact expertise centre conducts applied scientific research into these kinds of issues and shares the know-how and tools with organisations, associations and public authorities.
Lounges and pitch arena
Alongside the Business Lab, the new campus also houses various lounges where students can study in peace and work together in a relaxed setting. Moreover, the many flex and project classrooms make it possible to respond quickly to developments and trends in education. The icing on the cake are the pitch arenas where students, colleagues and inspirers can air their ideas and hear what others think about them. “The idea of attending lectures in large auditoria is a thing of the past: our approach is co-working. The campus concept opens up horizons for the new world of study. No more compartmentalization. Instinctively, degree programmes, disciplines and, above all, people come together and share what they learn,” is the dictum.
Vibrant city life
KdG is a vibrant community, centrally located in multifaceted Antwerp, founded following the merger of 13 denominational university colleges in 1995. Teacher Training, Welfare and Healthcare, St Lucas School of Arts Antwerp, Management & IT and Science and Technology are the fields of study from which students can choose. Today, the University of Applied Sciences and Arts is home to 13,000 students, 1,300 members of staff, 7 campuses, 13 professional and 3 educational bachelor’s programmes, 1 associate degree of education, 1 academic art programme, and a whole range of further degree programmes: from short refresher courses to postgraduate, advanced bachelor’s and advanced master’s programmes.
The new campus Meir is to become the hotspot for the largest cluster of Management & IT degree programmes in Flanders, with Office Management, International Business Management and Applied Computer Science and replaces campus Groenplaats which is bursting at the seams. The target is around 7,000 students, 1,000 of whom will be international.
The dream is to create a campus which is a hub of knowledge, experimentation and collaboration. “The university college belongs to everyone. It should be a place where all walks of life come together, from new students to young entrepreneurs, motivated volunteers, experienced professionals, international lecturers and those who just happen to be passing by.”
New students learn in different ways: more broadly based and more autonomously.
Whilst students continue to acquire knowledge through lecturers, they also learn from fellow students, students on other degree programmes, former students, researchers and entrepreneurs, as well as from professionals from inside and outside the University of Applied Sciences and Arts.
Thanks to optional modules, coaching and flex programmes, to an increasing degree, students can take matters into their own hands. They are encouraged to further their personal development and to take control of what they really want to learn and when. Students will still acquire knowledge and learn how to apply it, but also how to stay ahead, using their know-how and competences. Skills, such as critical and innovative thinking, networking and joint problem-solving, are part and parcel of the university college agenda. Real-life learning means being able to drop into the campus whatever your age: attending a lecture, launching an idea, exchanging points of view, or joining forces to solve a problem for a better future. And most of all, to make rapid strides forward together