University of Leuven


In the context of a regular course on the design of educational/pedagogical practices at the KU Leuven (Belgium) we want to investigate the possibility to have a satellite of ‘Campus in camp’ in Brussels. This investigation takes shape as a collaboration between the students and staff from both ‘Campus in camp’ and the ‘Laboratory for Education and Society’.

The starting point for the formulation of the design assignment was the observation that our university in Leuven and more generally universities in Flanders include rather little students from ‘migrant’ backgrounds. The universities are very aware of this situation and try to set up different kinds of programs to facilitate the access for those students. They are not only taking into account the financial situation, but try to set up different kinds of information and training programs in order to deal with ‘intellectual’, ‘cultural’ or ‘social’ aspects that are assumed to play a role in broadening access. However, they do not really question the very institution and actual operations of the university itself, whereas such reflections could also lead to a reformulation of the issue of access. This is the general challenge we want to take up in this course: how to rethink and redesign the university? Its public role? Its relation to the world and people ‘outside’? Its relation to knowledge and research? Etc. Or to put it differently: instead of focusing on enabling and facilitating access, we want to ask the question: ‘access to what?’ This rethinking of the question incites a reconsideration of the very form and operations of the university itself, explicitly taking into account the more general developments currently discussed under the names of marketization, privatization, personalization, mobilization and ‘learnification’ (learning as capitalization). Also, it aims to take into account new technologies, both the opportunities and the challenges connected to it, and it should include specific attention for the very concrete practical arrangements (especially focusing on architecture, research practices and pedagogic forms). This implies that we reformulate our initial observation regarding students of migrant background by avoiding to think in specific activities for so-called ‘target groups’ and focus on an investigation of the university as a public form.

To support this investigation and in the long tradition of educational study tours in which people have been travelling through the world in order to look for the ways in which education was/is organized elsewhere, we intend to visit Bethlehem and investigate and discuss the way a different university (i.e. Campus in Camp) is taking shape in Dheisheh refugee camp. And taking up but also reversing the movement in which mainly important US or UK based universities set up affiliated satellites/branches in the Middle east or China, the overall assignment of this year’s course consist in designing a satellite/branch of Dheisheh ‘Campus in camp’ in Brussels. The basic assumption is that we can learn from each other and, thus, in this case especially from ‘Campus in camp’, and that our visit can be organized as a collective experiment that is: a shared exposure of “our” thinking in the presence of that and those who are affected (but often also simply excluded) by “our” thinking, discourses and decisions. However, ‘in the presence of’ is not something which is easily realized and is not at all identical with being physically, visually or verbally present; a continuous effort is needed, exercises that include disciplines that can help us to become indeed attentive and exposed (attention being a suspension of intentions, ex-position being exactly the suspension of positions, including so-called critical ones). Therefore, the course includes all kinds of exercises (walks, observations, talks, mappings, recordings, collective presentations …) not just to become conscious or aware, but to become attentive (to ‘pay’ ‘attention’) and to make that some-thing gets the power to make us think and think together, also together with what becomes present.

Jan Masschelein