Policy study at Ghent University: moving beyond development cooperation

How do we, at Ghent University, want to engage in international cooperation with academic and non-academic partners based in Latin America, Africa and Asia – and how do these partners want to collaborate with us? This question is central to a two-year policy study on “moving beyond university development cooperation” (March 2021 – February 2023)


The rethinking of ‘Global North-South’ partnerships has become an increasingly prominent concern within university environments, of funding agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations across the world. In this respect, the concept of university development cooperation (UDC) requires a critical examination as well as a new orientation. In recognition of historical power imbalances on various partnership levels and collaborative dimensions, Ghent University seeks to develop a scientific framework to bring the concept, facilitation and practice of international North-South collaborations in research, education and societal impact up to date with insights from international good practices and by fostering dialogue and discussion among the UGent-community and its (international) partners and stakeholders.

The objectives of the study project are twofold.

  1. Global Minds 2.0
  2. Scientific framework for international North-South cooperation

The project starts from the premise that Global Minds and the wider university context at UGent are connected and entangled, raising the need to approach both as communicating vessels. They both speak to each other and influence each other. Specific attention is accorded to the potential role and position of Global Minds to act as an innovator in facilitating academic collaborative work in a Global ‘North-South’ context, based on equity, reciprocity, respect and shared ownership – resulting in a higher impact of scientific work.

1. Global Minds 2.0

Global Minds is a funding scheme at Ghent University funded by VLIR-UOS and focuses on strengthening the academic and international collaborative capacity of the UGent-community and its network of partners based in the Global South. The first five-year programme comes to an end in August 2022. In line with ongoing and general evolutions in the field of International Development, Ghent University engages in a critical reflection to develop a new programme based on a profound analysis of Global Minds 1.0 as well as informed by insights from and discussions with the UGent-based community and its international partners based in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The core of this reflective and scientific process took place between March 2021 and April 2022, and resulted in the proposal for Global Minds 2.0 which was evaluated positively by an external selection committee of VLIR-UOS (the proposal can be found here). The programme will be launched in September 2022 and run until August 2027.

In the coming five years, Global Minds aspires to facilitate more equitable international partnerships across and beyond the North-South axis by focusing its support on generally under-resourced partners and dimensions of international collaborative academic work. Emphasis lies on the facilitation of more collaborative research cycles; providing entry-ways to increase global multi-perspectivism in teaching, training and educational programmes at Ghent University; support initiatives that aim for a rapprochement between academic knowledge and societal impact; and support the creation and deepening of sustainable and global knowledge communities based on multi-stakeholder partnerships.

2. Scientific framework for international North-South cooperation

Academic collaborations between partners in the ‘Global North’ and in the ‘Global South’ are traditionally characterized by a conceptual and ideological framework focused on ‘university development cooperation’ (UDC). The concept of ‘development’ currently shapes funding structures, institutional policy frameworks, ethical principles, research practices and methodologies, scientific and societal value of academic work, etc.

With the study project, Ghent University aims to move beyond this framework by examining and seeking new ways of shaping international collaborative academic work in an international North-South context. Concretely, by creating a scientific basis and critically interrogating a number of key dimensions for international academic cooperation in a ‘Global North-South’ context:

  1. Research collaboration: PhD scholarship frameworks for international researchers
     Strengthening their benefits and opportunities
  2. Societal relevance & impact
     Revisiting the relationship between academic knowledge and society
  3.  ‘North-South @ Home’
     Strengthening international and intercultural knowledge and competences
    These three identified key dimensions take a number of important issues into consideration. First, the need to include attention for the triple mission of Ghent University in respect to research, education and societal impact. Second, a critical analysis of important bottlenecks at the intersection of the current framework of UDC and each of these three university missions. Third, the ambition to explore the opportunities and implications of an innovative framework that values international collaborative academic work based on principles of equity, reciprocity and justice.

Read The research trajectory and workplan for 2022-2023


Institutional context & steering committee

The project is an initiative jointly developed by the Academic Director for Internationalization, the Global Minds Fund, the Interdisciplinary Consortium (IDC) Ghent Center for Global Studies, the International Thematic Network Governance in Conflict (ITN GiC), and the department Conflict and Development Studies. It is funded by the Global Minds Fund.

The study project is conducted by Jolien Tegenbos in her role as scientific staff member at the Academic Directorate for Internationalization, in close collaboration with the Global Minds office and the unit Partnerships Global South (PGS). The project is further guided by a steering committee which, in addition to representatives of the above university bodies, includes representatives of alfa, beta and gamma sciences; the Global Minds coordinator (for the period 2021-2022); and the policy advisor for international affairs tasked with the coordination of the policy and action plan for internationalization (for the period 2022-2023).

• Prof. dr. Guido Van Huylenbroeck (academic director for internationalization)
• Veerle Devriendt (coordinator Global Minds program)
• Pieter Pauwels (policy advisor international affairs)
• Dr. Julie Carlier (IDC-coordinator Centre for Global Studies)
• Prof dr. Koen Vlassenroot (promoter ITN GiC; department conflict and development studies)
• Dr. Tomas Van Acker (coordinator ITN GiC; department conflict and development studies)
• Prof. dr. Tarek Beji (COS representative beta sciences, faculty of engineering and architecture)
• Prof. dr. Luc Duchateau (COS representative gamma sciences, faculty of veterinary sciences)
• Prof dr. Eric Vanhaute (COS representative alfa sciences, faculty of arts and philosophy)


Interested in the progress and findings of the study?

Findings and early analyses will trickle down to select audiences and university policy bodies for reporting purposes. A more profound report is to be more widely communicated at the end of the year. The month of January 2023 is foreseen to be dedicated to a number of discussion and feedback rounds with university policy bodies, those who participated, international partners and a number of other interested parties and external actors to be identified.

3. More information

Interested to know more about the study project, its progress and intermediate findings? Do you want to know how you can be involved? Is your research group, department or student organization interested to have a discussion on the project? Let me know and I’m happy to get in touch: Jolien.tegenbos@ugent.be