In Flanders, there is huge potential for knowledge creation, technology transfer and internationally competitive higher education. In 2011, Flemish minister-president Kris Peeters, Ministers Ingrid Lieten and Pascal Smet, and representatives of the Flemish universities signed a Protocol on Academic Diplomacy with the goal of increasing the interaction between the academic world and foreign policy, particularly with reference to diplomatic events and foreign missions.
There are already some 14,000 foreign students in Flanders, who are enrolled in a total of 246 programmes in a language other than Dutch. Universities themselves, too, employ a fair amount of foreigners: 2,800, or one in seven. And one-quarter of all research done in Flanders is paid for by money from abroad, mostly from EU funds.
The standard of education in Flanders today is one of the highest in Europe, both in terms of education and research. This absolute advantage is one of Flanders’ assets and should be maximised abroad.
With academic diplomacy the strategic objectives are twofold:
- Supporting the Flemish universities in their international activities to maximise their opportunities from a demand-driven approach;
- The Flemish public research institutions are becoming partners in the daily implementation of the foreign policy of the Flemish government. This way they reinforce the image of Flanders as an innovative and learning region of outstanding quality.
The contacts between the diplomatic world and knowledge institutions will be strengthened and there will be a greater interaction with academic expatriates and foreign students, researchers and teachers with Flemish academic experience.
In the United Kingdom, the General Representation focuses on the following issues:
- Networking with Flemish professors and researchers in the UK, maintaining contact with these academics and organising networking events
- Promoting Flanders Knowledge Area, including through participation in fairs
- Supporting the existing Dutch chairs in the UK and Dutch lessons for children
- Supporting events involving Low Countries Studies