A new future for VLIR-UOS
Cooperation projects and scholarships 2013 can finally go ahead
First we did not know whether we would receive funding in 2013, nor how much or from whom. The Belgian federal government wanted to transfer university cooperation for development to the regions. Then we got the message that we would only receive 67% of our budget. Unexpectedly it became 100% after all. It is a story of months of uncertainty, image loss and political struggle.
Budget 2013: from nothing to 67% and finally the full budget
It was only at the beginning of May 2013 that the federal government assured VLIR-UOS that 67% of the foreseen budget was guaranteed. The remaining 33% continued to be in doubt. 32 cooperation projects between universities and university colleges in Flanders and the South 19 training courses in Flanders would be cancelled. Furthermore 451 students from the South and from Flanders would not receive their scholarship.
At the beginning of July 2013 the federal government announced that the remaining 33% for 2013 would be made available after all. This was formally confirmed in the middle of July. Because of this VLIR-UOS will yet be able to finance the cancelled cooperation projects and scholarships.
What kind of future after 2013?
VLIR-UOS has, together with the Flemish vice-chancellors, continuously pointed out that development cooperation is a parallel responsibility. It belongs both to the federal and to the regional governments.
VLIR-UOS and the Belgian federal government have agreed to focus on twenty partner countries. Since 2010 we have adjusted our way of working to this agreement. In the coming years we will further develop the country policy.
The Flemish government is willing to make new commitments in the coming years and to play a role in university cooperation for development. We are thrilled to accept the invitation from Flanders to find out together what this new, autonomous Flemish university cooperation would comprise.
International image loss
The uncertainty about the budget 2013 and the future of university cooperation has led to serious image loss of the Flemish higher education abroad and . Who likes to collaborate with an unstable partner? How can we build long term partnerships when we do not know whether there will be financial means or not?
What have we learned?
During those months of uncertainty the added value of university cooperation for development was never questioned. The debate was primarily about who was to finance it.
We have however experienced that VLIR-UOS is largely unknown. We need to share our story more often and show the results and the impact. University cooperation for development is an investment in a joint future.
We have learned that we are strong if we work together. We organized demonstrations, press conferences and we lobbied to convince the politicians.
We would like to invite everyone who is actively involved in university cooperation for development to share, through us, your own commitment, your own project and its results, with the outside world, to show the difference we make together.