May 25, 2023

Brunel’s partnership with the Irish College Leuven

Brunel University London’s First Mobility scheme was launched in 2022 by Professor Trevor Hoey, Pro Vice Chancellor for International and Sustainability in a bid to increase rates of outward mobility amongst Brunel students.  Delivered in collaboration with the Irish College Leuven, a non-profit organisation that hosts residential education and training programmes for a wide variety of organisations, the scheme funds first-year undergraduates to spend four or five days studying in Europe as a way of encouraging them to take up exchange opportunities in their second year.

Brunel’s partnership with the Irish College Leuven predates the pandemic but it took on new life in the summer of 2022 when Brunel resumed outward mobility activities after a two-year hiatus, sending a group of 45 student and five members of staff to participate in courses in the fields of History, Engineering and Health Sciences.  The following autumn, Dr Sean Holmes, Vice Dean International for the College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences, and Dr Jeffrey Cox, Education Programmes Executive at the Irish College, set out to build upon this success by co-designing a new interdisciplinary programme.  ‘For me, the challenge was to come up with something that was expansive enough to accommodate students from across a large and very diverse college,’ Dr Holmes observed.  ‘Given Leuven’s significance as a creative hub, it made sense to focus on the creative industries.’   For the Irish College Leuven, the project was an opportunity both to expand its portfolio and to make new connections with businesses and cultural organisations in Leuven and beyond.  ‘We jumped at the chance to co-design a programme,’ Dr Cox explained.  ‘The creative industries lens allowed us to develop an itinerary that would appeal to students from various disciplinary backgrounds through a single unifying theme: how innovation and creativity can help to reimagine cities and transform communities.’

In October 2022, a group of 15 first-year students drawn from 5 different departments along with 2 members of staff travelled to Leuven by rail to take part in a four-day programme which included visits to:

  • Maakleerplek, a former industrial site that has been transformed into a creative space for businesses, schools, artists, and local residents; 
  • Lites Studios, home to the world’s most advanced water film stage; 
  • C-Mine, a former coal mining site in Genk which has been transformed into a creative hotspot;  
  • In Flanders Fields Museum, where the students learned about how the museum’s role in using the story of the Great War to further a social mission of promoting peace and understanding. 

For the students who participated in it, the Creative Industries programme at the Irish College Leuven was a transformative experience.  ‘Throughout the programme, students shared perspectives from their own areas of study and learned from those of peers from different departments,’ Dr Cox noted.  ‘This created a unique learning environment that fostered rich opportunities for contextualisation as students shared new experiences together.

Brunel University London and the Irish College Leuven are very eager to build upon what they have achieved together.  In June 2023, a group of Engineering students will be travelling to Leuven for a programme which, amongst many other things, will include a visit to Droneport, a business hub set up to facilitate research, innovation and entrepreneurship in the aerospace and drone market.  In October 2023, we shall be running the Creative Industries programme for a second time with the added element of a collaborative creative project.

Dr Sean Holmes – Vice Dean International, College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences

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