Improving the democratic character of higher education


Improving the democratic character of higher education

Name of the institution(s)

Cooperation between Flemish HE institutions and Flemish government

Qualification level concerned




Country concerned

Flanders, Belgium


Mission/Role of Professional Higher Education



Inclusion; access to PHE; social dimension


The Flemish Higher Education system has an open access policy. Everyone with a degree in secondary education willing/able to pay the entrance fee can become a student at a university or a university college. Low entrance fees are possible depending on the income of the student/his parents. Specific support (financial or other) can be obtained for students with insufficient means to pay for their studies. Nevertheless, it is clear that certain groups of the population are underrepresented in higher education, viewed in proportion to their presence in society at large, e.g. persons with a vulnerable socio-economic status (among them many people with a migrant background), persons with a disability and persons deciding at a later stage in life to try and get a higher education diploma.

In order to stimulate inflow and qualified outflow of these target group students, a number of measures are currently being taken or in the process of development:

– extra weight is given to these students when the level of financial allowances for universities and university colleges are established by the Flemish government;

– extra funding for universities and university colleges is provided by the government (Aanmoedigingsfonds) for institutions who sign up a contract with the government on the basis of specifically set goals regarding the target groups. The Flemish government will set general targets on national level. Higher education institutions will set institution specific targets that have to contribute to the national targets. The extra funding is awarded based on a mix of input and output indicators and will thus vary according to the results institutions come up with in the course of the years;

– the right to reasonable adjustments for students with disabilities, as well as the way they can take advantage of this right and the appeal procedure in case reasonable adjustments are refused by the institution, are explicitly referred to in higher education legislation;

– a set of policy measures aimed at improving pupils choice process in the transition toward higher education is at this moment under consideration by policy makers.

The idea came through cooperation of higher education institutions and the government. Government has initiated these measures in order to stimulate access to higher education and ensure participation of various groups that regularly might face problems of accessing it and continuing the education.

It follows the needs of the local community and looks at integrating young people from various backgrounds into higher education.

Lessons learnt

The political support is on a very high level in this project since the government was the initiator of it. Focusing on greater access to higher education is one of governments goals, especially noticing problems that many groups are facing, as well as problems of integration into society.

The project mostly relies on the governments support, especially considering that most of the tools are of a financial ground. Therefore, the project is ongoing as long as this issue keeps being one of the government’s priorities. Afterwards, it would be quite hard for institutions to raise themselves the money needed for the continuation of the initiative. Its impact will be measured according to the increase of students from the target groups and the study success institutions obtain with the target group students. It’s obvious that the real impact of the measures will only become clear after a number of years.

Contact details

Mr Patrick Willems, KU Leuven


First collected by

VLHORA / Flemish Council of University Colleges for IDEAS (Identifying Effective Approaches to Enhancing the Social Dimension) project 2013-2015


Rating of GOOD practices
1-poor ..5-ok .. 10-excellent