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Dies Natalis

Honorary Degrees mark Foundation Day

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Hasselt University will award no less than seven honorary degrees on 30 May. Serge Abiteboul, Susanne Baer, John Goddard, Yehuda Shoenfeld, Harry Timmermans, Ayodhya Tiwari and Joëlle Tuerlinckx will receive their diploma and medal during a ceremony on Campus Diepenbeek. ‘Our new honorary doctors come from different worlds, but what they share is vision and engagement’, Rector Luc de Schepper says.

This year the Dies Natalis celebrations will be more festive than usual: 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of UHasselt. In September 1973, the very first academic year kicked-off with less than 400 students (in strong contrast with the more than 6,000 students today). Rector Luc De Schepper: ‘Our new honorary doctors not only cover our entire educational and research spectrum, but they also embody our ambition to be a university whose students, alumni, researchers and staff engage deeply in and for society.’


Contemporary artist Joëlle Tuerlinckx has had a major impact on the practice of young artists who question the boundaries between different disciplines and media. As well as honouring her artistic career, the Faculty of Architecture and Art also wishes to use the honorary doctorate to question the still male-oriented canon of contemporary art.

Yehuda Shoenfeld is a leading researcher in the field of autoimmune diseases, with publications in journals such as Nature and Lancet. He is the founder and head of the Zabludowicz Center for Autoimmune Diseases (Sheba Medical Center, Tel Aviv) and the driving force behind the Autoimmunity Network collaboration platform. With this honorary degree, the Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences pays tribute to both his work and his support for young researchers worldwide.

The Faculty of Engineering Technology has nominated Ayodhya Tiwari for an honorary doctorate. During his career Prof. Tiwari, who is associated with the prestigious Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zürich, has built up a very strong track record in research into thin-film solar cells.

Susanne Baer (nominated by the Faculty of Law) is one of the sixteen judges of the German federal constitutional court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in Karlsruhe. She is a professor of public law and gender studies at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. As a widely respected academic and judge, she advocates a return to the basics of democracy and the principle of equality.

Harry Timmermans (Technische Universiteit Eindhoven) has risen to prominence with research into the development and application of innovative calculation models and ICT for urban planning and mobility. He has more than 500 publications to his name. The School of Transportation Sciences has nominated Professor Timmermans for the honorary degree.

Serge Abiteboul (associated with the Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique – INRIA) is a leading researcher in the field of data management. Prof. Abiteboul, who was nominated by the Faculty of Sciences, has also been involved in various start-ups. As a member of the French Académie des Sciences, he has helped shape computer science education in France.

The institutional honorary degree goes to John Goddard (emeritus professor at Newcastle University). He has always made a strong case for the ‘civic university’. Professor Goddard has studied the symbiosis between higher education and regions for the OECD, as well as writing several books on the subject. Throughout his career, he has provided both universities and society with an important compass for tackling major societal challenges. With this honorary doctorate, UHasselt – which explicitly positions itself in its new mission and vision as a ‘civic university’ – pays tribute not only to his work, but also to this spirit of cooperation and engagement.


The Honorary Doctorate Ceremony will take place on May 30 at Campus Diepenbeek. Ceremonies start at 2.30 p.m.