Limburg’s University Education Expansion Stalls Under Ministerial Disapproval

Sarhan Basem
Credit: erudera

Brussels (Brussels Morning – October 6, 2023) Vlaams Belang expresses disappointment over the persistent refusal of Education Minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) to further develop a broader, richer, and more efficient higher education system in Limburg. Despite the call for new general programs to meet the needs of the local economy, Weyts remains adamant about only allowing new niche courses. “Unfortunately, we can’t expect anything more from this Flemish government this term,” stated Flemish Parliament member Roosmarijn Beckers.

Lack of Government Initiative to Enrich University Offerings in Limburg

This legislative term, the Flemish government fails to present concrete initiatives to enhance the university education offerings in Limburg, as revealed in Education Minister Ben Weyts’ response to Flemish Parliament member Roosmarijn Beckers. Additionally, there is no indication of future explorations to develop a broader shared vision for higher education in Limburg beyond 2024.

Minister Weyts persists in his reluctance towards the expansion plans proposed by UHasselt. Rector Bernard Vanheusden advocated earlier this academic year for three new general programs: a master’s in medicine, master’s in social sciences, and a STEM program. These proposals aimed not for unchecked growth but for the establishment of new, clearly defined courses to fortify the region against economic and social challenges.

Five Well-Established Universities Strengthen Each Other

Beckers argues that Weyts overlooks the possibility of combining specialization with offering additional general directions. “Even within a general program, one can focus on a particular specialization,” she asserted. “If the minister refuses to support the organization of courses in Limburg because they share names with courses elsewhere but differ significantly in content and specialization, then it reflects a narrow-mindedness that ignores the real needs and opportunities in our province.”

According to Beckers, Weyts fails to recognize the urgency of addressing the underrepresentation of Limburg’s youth in higher education. “The minister claims to prioritize the interests of all of Flanders. Well, the growth of UHasselt would benefit Flanders too,” Beckers remarked. “Five well-established universities strengthen each other. They transform Flanders into a diverse knowledge region. We shouldn’t get lost in pseudo-discussions and false dichotomies between general and niche programs. Everyone sees the needs, everyone sees the opportunities, but apparently, the Minister of Education sees them to a lesser extent! For fifty years, we’ve been saying there are too few Limburg youth continuing their education. For fifty years, we’ve been saying too many Limburg youth are leaving, and we need to attract more young talent to the region. Unfortunately, this government won’t deliver.”

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.