KU Leuven drops “Catholic” from its name

Summary

Say no more “Catholic University of Leuven”. Say instead “KU Leuven - University of Leuven”.

Say no more “Catholic University of Leuven”. Say instead “KU Leuven - University of Leuven”.

After 586 years, since its founding by John IV, Duke of Brabant, and approved by a Papal Bull from Pope Martin V, the Flanders’ oldest institution of higher education is dropping the word “Catholic” from its name. The letters “KU” remain, but they simply refer to the tradition of the university, still known throughout Flanders by the initials KUL.

The university has been engaged in reflection and discussion for some months on its role in a modern society and the place to be given to its Catholic tradition. The biggest upset came last year, with the revelation of widespread abuse of children by Catholic priests. Marc Waer told Flanders Today then that those shocking reports were not the reason for the rethink, but did provide an opportunity for discussion.

The word “Catholic” in the university’s name was a source of confusion abroad, Waer explained. It gave the impression, he told the university newspaper Veto, that the institution was connected formally with the church. “We wanted to make the nuances clear. We’re not denying our roots in the Catholic tradition; we just want to be more open to other points of view.

A proposal before the governing committee on 22 December will include a motion for Archbishop André Léonard, the senior prelate in Belgium, to remove himself from the post of chairman. He will, however, continue to act as the university’s chancellor.

“The presence of the archbishop as chancellor and chairman hasn’t hindered our progress over the last five decades,” Waer said. “We are independent of the church, and that’s what we now want to stress.”

Another change that’s likely to come is a revision of the course, obligatory for all students, titled “Religion, Meaning and Philosophy”. Waer prefers the idea of a course called “Mankind and World Image”, which would place the Christian narrative on an equal footing with other ways of seeing the world.

Last week the university held talks with its Dutch counterpart, the Radboud University Nijmegen, formerly itself a Catholic university, which changed its name in 2004. The reasoning then given was concern over the university’s (an in particular the medical school’s) ability to attract students from abroad.

KU Leuven drops “Catholic” from its name

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