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European University Alliances: Drivers of Change and Innovation in Higher Education

On the occasion of the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, all ten Belgian universities invite you to reflect on the European University Alliances as Drivers of Change and Innovation in Higher Education during a two day event on the 29th and 30th of April.

VLIR-UOS will be organising a panel discussion on April 30th, from 16:30 until 17:30 on Global Partnerships for EU higher education and European alliances. Panelists include the directors of DGD and of directorate G of DG INTPA, the rector of UNIKIN, and policy makers from universities in Cuba, DRC, Ecuador and South Africa. Be sure to follow the debate on why and how to involve global partners in European university alliances, and how to fund such partnerships.

Register and follow the online streaming of the conference online here.

Summary of the session

EU HEIs cooperate with partner country HEIs to build mutual capacity at the level of individual HEIs and/or the national HE system. Three questions on equal partnerships will be debated in the panel:

  1. Why involve global partners within European University Alliances? Added value to both EU and partner HEIs, focusing on contributing to today’s societal shifts.
  2. How to involve global partners? What works and what doesn’t in the current set-up? How to include global partners in the amendment process?
  3. Funding paradigm: do we need to adapt current funding mechanisms (EU, alliances, national, regional funding mechanisms) to support global involvement?

A keynote by Belgium’s Min. of Development Cooperation will introduce the session.

Keywords: International partnerships, inclusion, equal partnerships, international solidarity



Ann Peeters
is the Vice-President of the Council for International Policy at VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) and member of the Bureau of VLIR-UOS. She is an Associate Professor at the Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies, with a joint PhD degree in Italian Literature awarded by VUB and the Università di Pisa (2013) on intertextual relations between Alessandro Manzoni’s novel I Promessi sposi and the various opera adaptations and a MA in Romance Languages (French – Italian. She co-organized conferences on life writing, intermediality and the narrative potential of music. Her teaching assignment includes courses on Italian literature and culture as well as on multilingualism, multilingual literature intertextuality, intermediality. Her current research interests focus on intertextuality, intermediality, multilingualism in higher education and multilingual pedagogies. In 2023, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Lubumbashi.



Belgium’s Federal Minister of Development Cooperation and of Metropolitan Policy. The minister was a member of the Parliament of Flanders and President of the Flemish Socialist Party and wrote a social manifesto for the Party of European Socialists on the political economy, social justice and the fight against inequality and published a book on social engagement, “De verschilligen”. The minister has a Master’s Degree in Social and Political Sciences and is Chairperson of the University Association of Brussels.


Monserrath Jerves Hermida
is Vice-Rector of Research and Innovation at the University of Cuenca, Ecuador. She was Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Educational Sciences and Coordinator of the Centre of Research of Sexuality and Sex Education, where she conducted research about sexual development and behaviour of adolescents as well as Sex Education provided to adolescents in the formal and informal contexts. She has obtained her PhD at the International Institute of Family and Sexuality Studies of KULeuven, Belgium. In the framework of the Inter-University Cooperation programme between the University of Cuenca and the Flemish higher education institutions supported by VLIR-UOS, she was a project leader and a PhD researcher.


Pascal Kapagama, sociologist, is a graduate of Université Laval in Québec (Canada) where he is a visiting professor. He is the coordinator of cooperation and international relations at the University of Kinshasa. An Ordinary Professor at the University of Kinshasa (DRCongo), he is also a scientific collaborator at the Institute of Social and Human Sciences at the University of Liège in Belgium. Currently the University of Kinshasa is collaborating with Walloon higher education institutions through an ‘Appui Institutionel’ supported by ARES. There are also several ongoing projects supported by VLIR-UOS (Teams and Short Initiatives). He is interested in the sociology of development (dynamics of African societies and poverty); methodological issues of field research in Africa, and the sociology of youth social movements. Governance and academic reforms in Africa are also areas of interest. In the framework of the 70th anniversary of UNIKIN (Lovanium), the KULeuven and UCLouvain together supported 70 scholarships for research and education.


Larry Pokpas is Advisor to the Rector and Vice-Chancellor and former Institutional Planner at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), South Africa, building strategic partnerships with Flemish, Nordic and Southern African universities. He was the programme coordinator for the Inter-University Cooperation (IUC) between the UWC and Flemish universities supported by VLIR-UOS. He is the co-editor of the book “Dynamics of building a better society”, outlining the achievements of the IUC programme. The UWC has active institutional-wide strategic partnerships with both the UGent and VUB.


Yanela Rodriguez Alvarez is in charge of International Relations at the University of Camagüey, Cuba. She is an Associate Professor at the Department of Computer Science with a PhD degree in this field by UCLV, Cuba. Her current research interests focus on internationalisation of higher education and artificial intelligence.  She is a member of the collective of authors of three books on these topics. She was a member of the project that worked on the proposal of a strategy for the development of artificial intelligence in Cuba. Amongst others, UCamagüey successfully carried out a NETWORK project in computer sciences supported by VLIR-UOS.


Erica Gerretsen is Director for Human Development, Migration, Governance and Peace in the European Commission's Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA). Since 1995, she has worked for the European Commission in a variety of roles focusing on external relations, including postings to Slovenia prior to its accession to the EU and to Benin as an Economic Advisor. She later joined DG INTPA (formerly DG DEVCO), where she became Deputy Head of Unit for West Africa in 2012 and Head of Unit for Central Africa in 2013. She has also served as Head of Unit in the Unit for Macroeconomic Analysis, Fiscal Policies and Budget Support, and as Deputy Director of the Directorate for Sustainable Finances, Jobs and Growth.


Melanie Schellens serves since January 2023 as the Director Governmental Cooperation in the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brussels. She entered the diplomatic career in 2003 with postings  in Pretoria, Washington DC and Cotonou, as head of Development Cooperation. In 2012-2014 and 1999-2002, Melanie was advisor to the Belgian Minister for Development Cooperation. She holds a Master in Educational Sciences and started her career in teacher education in 1984 before switching to development cooperation in 1990, as  a staff member of the research & advocacy section of 11.11.11,  the umbrella organization of Belgian non-governmental organizations.