May 28, 2004
Purdue, Belgian university explore research, learning collaborations
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University has entered into a long-term research and program partnership with one of Europe's oldest universities.
Purdue president Martin C. Jischke and André Oosterlinck, rector of Belgium's University of Leuven, signed a memorandum of understanding that will permit the two universities to work together on collaborative research, combined programs and curricula, and student and faculty exchanges. The agreement was signed last week when Oosterlinck visited the Purdue campus with five colleagues from Leuven.
"In their strategic plan, officials from the University of Leuven identified one university on each continent with which they would form a major partnership," said John Contreni, interim dean of Purdue's Graduate School, which has served as the main liaison with the Belgian university. "We are very proud that the quality of Purdue's graduate students and faculty have made us the choice for North America."
Since 2000-01, Purdue and the University of Leuven have participated in a direct exchange for a joint master's program in Earth observation, which trains graduate students to use modern data-gathering, such as remote-sensing and global positioning systems, to achieve sustainable management of the Earth's limited resources.
Contreni said the success of this program will be used as a model to establish programs in as many as 18 other disciplines, ranging from high-tech specialties of both schools, such as nanotechnology and environmental engineering, to areas including philosophy and sports management.
"Educators today understand the importance of international relationships and experiences in both their students' education and their own research," Contreni said. "Purdue and Leuven both have a strong commitment to preparing our students to succeed in a global economy, and this partnership will only help strengthen their already strong opportunities. The key element in the partnership is the strength of the academic programs at both universities. The fact that the collaboration will take place on both sides of the Atlantic is an added bonus."
The Leuven delegation that accompanied Oosterlinck to West Lafayette met with 40 Purdue program faculty and administrators. The next step is for colleagues on both campuses to work out the specific details of their partnerships, Contreni said.
The University of Leuven was founded in 1425 and is officially named "Katholieke Universiteit Leuven" or "KU-Leuven" in reference to its heritage as the Catholic University of Leuven. The school, located in Flanders, 12 miles east of Brussels, has 30,000 students, including 3,000 students from 100 different countries. It is known for its strengths in the social sciences and humanities, exact sciences (engineering) and biomedical sciences, Contreni said.
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