Founded in 1425, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) is the oldest university in Belgium, as well as being the oldest surviving Catholic university anywhere in the world.
With more than 42,000 students, it’s also Belgium’s largest higher education institution and is considered to be one of the most prestigious research universities in Europe.
Located in the city of Leuven, Dutch is the university’s main language of instruction although undergraduate degree programmes in English are offered across the faculties of Philosophy, Theology, Economics and Business, and Engineering Technology. There are also a limited number of programmes taught in French and Spanish.
With KU Leuven’s emphasis on research excellence, students are taught using research-focused methods that encourage critical thinking, with programmes regularly reviewed to incorporate new findings. The university also encourages the use of state-of-the-art technology to enhance its teaching. In 2013 it launched the AGORA study space to assist students and staff in collaborating together on projects that use new technology.
Comprising three overarching doctoral schools, its doctoral programmes are not solely focused on academia but include training in non-academic skills such as communication and entrepreneurship.
Among its alumni are a great many politicians and business leaders, while those receiving honorary doctorates from the university include Christine Lagarde, Ban Ki-moon, Mary Robinson and Helmut Kohl.
As a multi-campus university, KU Leuven offers degree programmes across multiple sites in 11 Belgian cities including Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp. The university also has strategic links with universities in 23 countries with which it collaborates on research and study programmes.
Leuven itself is a small historic city with a young population owing to its high number of students. The city is a cultural hub and is known particularly for its contemporary arts centre, STUK. On campus, the university regularly plays host to music, dance and theatre performances, as well as housing art exhibitions and an art museum.
Several European capitals are easily accessible by train directly from Leuven, including Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin and London.