Universities introduce halal meals and prayer spaces to attract ethnic students

The universities of Antwerp and Leuven intend to do more to attract youngsters from the ethnic minorities.

Youngsters from the ethnic minorities are underrepresented at university. Leuven attracts 11.2% of its students from this group, Ghent 14.4% and Antwerp only 9%. In the 18-19 age category a quarter of Flemings belong to this group. Universities already do a lot to encourage students from the ethnic minorities using mentors, but more is clearly needed.

Leuven rector Rik Torfs warns that too many members of this group fail to register because they feel university is not for them. Leuven University visits secondary schools to encourage pupils to come forward. The use of role models from the ethnic minorities is important too. Prof Torfs adds that ensuring that these students get a degree, finish their studies with success, is important too and requires an extra effort as well.

The universities are eager to provide halal meals as well as prayer spaces. Leuven University also possesses a Career Center to help post graduates find work and is in contact with employers looking for employees with a particular profile. Rik Torfs underlines that the focus is not only on students from the ethnic minorities but also on pioneer students, students who are the first to go to university from their neighbourhood.

Prof Torfs lauds the à la carte approach: "We need to take a close look at who we are dealing with and take the best initiatives for them" tailored to them he told the dailies De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad.