open calls

VLIR-UOS – ICP Statistics


The world of statistics is a global network af about 2,360 organizations worldwide, representing businesses, research and university institutes, professional societies and governemantal agencies. In line with the conclusion of the International Year of Statistics campaign, it advocates the global need for statistics as the driving force for scientific discovery and innovations. Well trained statisticians have the power to advance society in many fields by ensuring correct and cost-effective data collection, analysis and interpretation in support of agricultural, economic, medical, political and public health decision making processes.  The world of statistics expects the demand for statisticians and data analysts to increase up to 4.4 milliion jobs worldwide in the coming years. Capacity and network building in the filed of statistics is a developmental priority in many countries as emphasized by the VLIR-UOS country strategies. The need for statistics is either referred to under countries’ main health theme for cooperation on public health, epidemiology, infectious disease/reproductive health modelling, disease surveillance, food safety and rural health, and/or as a crosscutting theme for cooperation on (bio)statistics in support of evidence-based research and education. 

Through its UHasselt Master of Statistics programme and under impulse of Prof. Paul Janssen, former International Course Programme (ICP) promoter and holder of the prestigious International Biometric Society Award, and other colleagues, the Center for Statistics (CenStat) has contributed to an increased international recognition that good statistical practice is quintessential for scientific innovation in medicine, food safety, agriculture and other fields presenting with developmental needs. The success of the ICP so far, with over 200 scholar applications from all over the world per year, underscores this, in tandem with CenStat’s well-established South network. The strength of the renewed ICP strategy and this application for continued support is to combine forces through an institution-driven ICP selection, such that both individual and institutional impact of the programme can be maximized. 

In this application three changes have been implemented in the UHasselt Master of Statistics programme: (1) An effective change in the curriculum by integrating ICP in the three existing trajectories (Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Public Health Methodology and Bioinformatics) rather than a separate ICP Biostatistics trajectory. The integrated ICP aims to better cover the broad range and interaction of applied fields in need of well-trained statisticians. Capacity building in BioStat and Epi-PH will foster research in medicine, agriculture, public health, research lines with direct and timely relevance to the South. Bioinformatics is seen as a modern day opportunity to the South to keep pace with the world’s advancements in analyzing “big”, multi-source data in clinical and pharmaceutical studies; (2) Three new ICP courses, taught by high-profile lecturers from the South: ‘Design of agricultural experiments’ (formally called ‘Topics in Biometry’) taught by Prof. Clarice Démetrio from Sao Paulo University Brazil and Rebecca Nsubuga from the MRC in Entebbe, Uganda; ‘Planning of Health Studies’ taught by different colleagues in Kenya (JKUAT, KEMRI, UoN) including Prof. Samuel Mwalili and Prof. Nelson Onyango; ‘Capita selecta’ course on in-depth specialization in selected topics related to statistics in the South. For example, ‘Computational biology’ will be taught by Prof. Wim Delva (SACEMA, South-Africa) in tandem with Prof. Tulio De Olivera (Africa Center for Health and Population Studies, South-Africa). As North-South partnerships intensify and local programmes in statistics grow, other course topics and high-quality lecturers from the South will be explored; (3) University and non-university actors in Ethiopia, Morocco, Brazil, South-Africa, Kenya, Vietnam and Uganda are involved as supporting partners for master thesis projects to further intensify North-South/South-South networks, increase employability of graduates and amplify the local sustainable impact of the ICP. The requested incremental funding in this application is devoted to activities for institutional capacity building in the South including the inception and (further) development of local master of statistics programmes but also networking events via the master's alumni network. 

Prof. Niel Hens is Associate Professor at UHasselt and at Antwerp University where he holds the chair in evidence-based vaccinology. He is a biostatistician and mathematical epidemiologist with over 10 years experience in human epidemiology. He has recently been awarded with the prestigious Consolidator Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) and has an excellent track record. He has established a large network of major collaborators in teaching and research across the world, including Southern countries (e.g. Mozambique, South-Africa, Uganda, Vietnam). It is with full support of Prof. Paul Janssen, former ICP promoter, the colleagues at CenStat and the teachers in the Master of Statistics programme that Prof. Niel Hens will fulfill the role of ICP promoter and make sure that the programme lives up to the ambitions outlined in this proposal.

A recent quote from Sir David Cox, one of the best and internationally most renowned statisticians in the world, summarizes the unique position of the UHasselt Master of Statistics programme: ‘Statistical education has developed strongly in Europe over recent decades but I know of nowhere else where there is the particular combination of strengths and relevance that you provide.” It is our goal to continue to be relevant especially for the South.

Intervention type

International Master Programme


01/01/2017 - 31/12/2021

This project is being implemented in:
Flemish promoter Niel Hens
Local partner institution Universiteit Hasselt
Budget € 704.824