Civic university

UHasselt is a civic university committed to making and keeping this Region strong – a good place to build a future, a career, a business, a home, a life.

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UHasselt, a civic university

A strong University, committed to a strong Region

Sustainability, diversity, globalisation, digitalisation, inequality… Our societies are faced with a myriad of grand challenges. In such a complex world where tectonic plates are shifting, much is expected from – publicly financed – universities. And rightfully so. Universities cannot stand apart from what is happening outside of their walls. They must assume responsibility and share knowledge.

UHasselt’s guiding belief is that we can serve our community best by being a civic university. Our civic mission is aimed at making and keeping this Region strong – a good place to build a future, a career, a business, a home, a life.

Connected to society

Where civic universities differ from all others is in the natural connection they have with their immediate surroundings. Their growth and development are closely linked to that of the Region. Regional needs, challenges and opportunities are the most important driving forces of their education and research. They consider this natural connection as the heart of their civic identity and the cornerstone of education and research quality.

Civic universities have an economic, social, cultural, environmental, physical and health impact in their Region. They are engines for social equality, innovation and prosperity. They enrich cultural life and build deep connections with the world of arts and culture in their Region. They are guardians of public heritage and engines for urban renewal. They are catalysts for social cohesion and public places of assembly, information and debate. They play a critical role in their Region’s transition to a sustainable and healthy society.

Civic universities use the Region as a ‘living laboratory’ and a source of inspiration for education and research. They build on the proximity of knowledge, talent, ideas and infrastructure, and connect with companies, governments, knowledge institutions, schools, civil society and citizens in the Region. Thanks to this kind of kaleidoscopic interaction, together, they can accelerate innovation and meet the challenges at hand. And thanks to this academic research inspired by the Region, they can create considerable added value internationally.

Civic universities are deeply devoted to the Region they are part of – but they cherish strong connections with the world as well. They have an international network of universities, companies and organisations. They attract top talent from around the world, produce research publications of the highest international level and enjoy excellent scores in academic rankings. Inspiring the world, being inspired by the world – it is part of being a civic university too.

Connected to our historical roots

Our choice to be a civic university aligns with our historical roots. More than fifty years ago, the downfall of old industries and rising inequalities tore apart the Region’s social and economic fabric. Many young people had the brains but not the means to go to college. This lack of highly-educated professionals hampered the growth of new industries, putting the Region’s prosperity at stake. A university in the Region would enhance the future and well-being of its people. This thought fuelled a grassroots movement of committed citizens, politicians, entrepreneurs and civil society members. In the end, their demands, dreams and ambitions led to the legal foundation of Hasselt University, in 1971.

In the past five decades, the world has changed at a tremendously fast pace. Amidst shifting tectonic plates in our economy and society, Hasselt University changed too. Our initial focus on educating young people was broadened to include doing research and fostering innovation. We developed new programmes, created new partnerships and defined new research priorities.

Our connection to the Region has remained close, but our role as civic university has grown. More than ever before, we believe that knowledge comes with responsibility and commitment. This belief is part of our history, present and future.


Goddard, J. and Vallance, P. (2013) The University and the City, London: Routledge.
Goddard, J., Hazelkorn, E., Kempton, L. and Vallance, P. (2016) The Civic University: The Policy and Leadership Challenges, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Read our interview (pdf, 3.3 MB)with Professor Emeritus John Goddard (Newcastle University) about the civic university.

The mission, vision and values that guide us

Our mission

As civic university we assume our responsibility, commit ourselves and share our knowledge in ways that benefit society. Strong public engagement was, is and always will be at the core of who we are and what we do. Our students, staff, researchers and alumni are both able and willing to make our society smarter, more agile and better. Today’s and tomorrow’s challenges guide our teaching, research and social engagement. Innovation is a constant in everything we do.

Our vision

As civic university we want to deploy people and knowledge to tackle society’s major challenges – in full collaboration with others. We measure our success in achieving this goal by the University’s and Region’s continuous growth in impact as well as reputation. Therefore, we will:

  • impart to our students knowledge, skills and insights into the world around them – in order to make them critical, engaged global citizens and agile, versatile graduates able to adapt to an ever-changing world;

  • collaborate with other universities, research centres, governments, businesses and civil society organisations – in order to enhance knowledge on local, regional and global challenges and develop new ideas and solutions;

  • break down the silos between research disciplines – so that scientists can work better together on new answers to ever more complex problems;

  • employ our national and international education and research networks – in order to send our students and academics into the world and attract others to our region even more.

In this way, Hasselt University will become a place where the Region meets the world and the world meets the Region.

Our values

To do fully justice to our mission and realize our vision, we are guided by the following values:

  • Connected and engaged
    We are profoundly connected with each other and with the world around us. We are fully aware of society’s challenges. In the search for solutions, we work with each other, with our partners and our stakeholders.
  • Honest and respectful
    An honest and respectful attitude comes first in everything we do. We act with impartiality – openly, ethically and independently – and with respect for one another and for our environment.
  • Responsible and enterprising
    We have a sense of responsibility for present and future. We are determined to (help) solve problems and to seize opportunities – whatever the circumstances. We believe that the future is sustainable and that solutions must be too.
  • Innovative
    We believe that new times and challenges call for new answers. We dare to do things differently and to do different things.
  • Critical and broad-minded
    We believe that an open and critical spirit and broad-mindedness are essential for a well-functioning academic community. We put the truth first, embrace new ideas and welcome fresh insights.

Civic UHasselt in action

Fostering a sustainable society. Stimulating health and wellbeing. Enhancing the Region’s economic fabric. Improving equity in education. Safeguarding heritage. Hasselt University works to build a Region that is strong and prosperous. Education and research are both a goal in itself as well as a means for attaining an even better future.


Researching climate change impact on pear cultivation

strengthening sustainability

In the Ecotron Hasselt University, scientists explore what impact climate change will have on pear cultivation in the region.


UHasselt turns centuries-old Refugiehuis into its home

safeguarding heritage

UHasselt has turned the sixteenth-century Refugiehuis, once a house of refuge for Herkenrode Abbey's beguines, into its home.


Limburg Talent Academy eyes closing education gap

improving equity in education

UHasselt is part of the ‘Limburg Talent Academy’ (TALim), providing underprivileged youth with opportunities to further develop and grow.

Tim Nawrot

Researchers explore the effects of air pollution

stimulating health and wellbeing

The ‘Limburg Birth Cohort’ project studies the effects of early life exposure to air pollution, involving more than a thousand children from across the Region.


Programme launched to strengthen local business

enhancing the economic fabric

In 2015, UHasselt launched its Commercial Sciences programme in the wake of calls from local business for such highly-educated professionals.

students and civic engagement

The ‘Huuradvies’ legal clinic provides tenants and landlords with hands-on advice and information. UHasselt's Law students take part on a voluntary basis, on top of their studies.

Student Helpt Zorg (1)

Students step up at height of pandemic

students and civic engagement

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare students volunteered at hospitals, senior living communities and vaccination centres across the Region.

Live Projects ARK

Designing with and for the community

students and civic engagement

During ‘Live Projects’, students of the Faculty of Architecture and Arts take part in community-based design, working together with local stakeholders.