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Photos (from left to right): commons.wikimedia, Erim Giresunlu, Lisa Beller

About Cologne, common values and cooperation

Interview with Professor Danny Pieters from KU Leuven

When Professor Danny Pieters, Vice Rector for International Policy at KU Leuven, gave his opening speech at the first Cologne-Leuven Day at the University of Cologne last year, he took some time to talk about the two universities’ deeply rooted connection revealing that in its early days KU Leuven was not only modelled, among others, on the University of Cologne, but that there were scholars from Cologne among its founding fathers, too. Professor Pieters hinted at some more interesting facts that day which prompted us to ask him some more questions…

The interview was conducted by Nina Maria Kohl.

View of the University of Cologne's main building from the city's green belt. Photo: Axel Schulten / KölnTourismus GmbH

Vice Rector Pieters, when you have been to Cologne last time, you mentioned that you have a kind of long-term relationship with the City and the University of Cologne. Could you tell us why and when it started? 

In the winter semester 1979 I was enrolled as a student at the University of Cologne under a bilateral exchange program that already existed between KU Leuven and University of Cologne. I had just finished my law degree at KU Leuven and did research for my Ph.D. in Cologne. I was also privileged to become a member (Bandinhaber) of a student organization, KDStV Rheinland. An experience never to forget…

Professor Dr. Danny Pieters

I was also privileged to become a member of a student organization, KDStV Rheinland. An experience never to forget…

Professor Dr. Danny Pieters, Vice Rector for International Policy, KU Leuven

KU Leuven's Faculty of Law.
Photo: KU Leuven - Rob Stevens

The University of Cologne has defined KU Leuven as a Global Network Partner to establish strong research networks. Why do these universities fit together so well?

Both universities are comprehensive and share common values. They are focused on excellent research and education, committed also to the service of the community. We are exploring in which areas we can jointly realize project applications for Horizon 2020 that we could not present in isolation.

Another huge advantage arises from the fact that we are situated in each other’s neighborhood: for researchers or students finding it difficult to leave their families for a longer period of time, the partnership may grant them the opportunity to reap the benefits of international experiences without having to cope with extensive travel.

Perhaps the University of Nijmegen, a partner of both our universities, could join this initiative in the future, too.

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  • Vice Rector Pieters in conversation with a Cologne student at the first Cologne-Leuven-Day in November 2015. Photo: Erim Giresunlu
  • University of Cologne and KU Leuven students enjoying the science slam in 2015. Photo: Erim Giresunlu Photo:Erim Giresunlu
  • Winners of the science slam are rewarded by their fellow slammers with a thunderous applause. Photo: Erim Giresunlu

Last year the first Cologne-Leuven-Day took place at the University of Cologne. Another is due to take place at KU Leuven later this year. What are these events all about?

The Cologne-Leuven-Days are aimed at creating a common platform for exchanging information on some hot research items so that researchers can learn from each other. Even more important is to bring students and researchers from both universities together: out of these contacts all kinds of joint initiatives may result.

And last but not least these events are about having fun together. That is why we think of slightly unconventional setups when it comes to the organization of these meetings. Back in November 2015, when we brought Leuven and Cologne students together for the first time, we had arranged for a science-speed-dating session as well as a science slam with an informal get-together to conclude the day. It was a great atmosphere and people really got their heads together.

I am very much looking forward to the follow-up meeting in Leuven where we are already preparing for another rather unusual setting of an academic networking event...

Many thanks for your time and insight, Vice Rector Pieters.

Leuven is the biggest and most renowned university in Belgium. Finally in 2013, after decades of cooperation and joint exchange programs, KU Leuven and University of Cologne agreed on a formal Global Network Partnership. This is the closest form of cooperation the University of Cologne offers and the two partners have since cooperated even more closely on research and educational programs.

Professor Gudrun Gersmann

We are delighted, that the long standing excellent cooperation between KU Leuven and University of Cologne is further intensified by the joint setup of the Academic Institute of East Belgium.

Professor Gudrun Gersmann, Vice Rector for International Affairs, University of Cologne

It was hence an especially joyful event when representatives of KU Leuven, University of Cologne and Belgium’s German-speaking Community (DG – Deutsche Gemeinschaft) signed a cooperation agreement in the Belgian city of Eupen on 23rd May. The aim of the agreement is to set up the joint “Academic Institute of East Belgium”. It will serve as a contact point and as a platform for inquiries from researchers as well as the private sector.

Announcing the setup of the joint Academic Institute of East Belgium at a press conference in Eupen: Vice Rector Danny Pieters (right), the Chancellor of KU Leuven, Professor Dr. Rik Torfs (2nd from the right), the Chancellor of the University of Cologne, Dr. Michael Stückradt (left) with University of Cologne's Vice Rector for International Affairs, Gudrun Gersmann (2nd from the left) as well as representatives of Belgium's German speaking Community. Photo: Regierung der Deutschsprachigen Gemeinschaft