Early enrollment deadline shows no negative effects to date

© Emilia Van Droogenbroeck

This year 60,469 students have enrolled at KU Leuven. For the first time ever, the university advanced its enrollment deadline. Yet the KULAK Campus in Kortrijk is more popular than ever.


Out of the 60,569 students that registered at the KU Leuven this academic year, 13,649 are new to the university. 9,742 of those are bachelor students, a 4% increase as compared to last academic year.

Early enrollment deadline

The enrollment deadline was advanced by one week as compared to last year. Students had to register before 20 September. As a result, for students doing resits, exam result announcements and the enrollment deadline were barely a week apart. The KU Leuven nonetheless decided to be lenient.

While the KULAK Campus in Kortrijk is but the third most popular campus, it is the only campus with a vicerector

'We have decided to accept enrollments up until three weeks past the deadline', states Tine Baelmans, vice rector for Educational Policy. 'Late enrollments had to be justified, but we have nonetheless been forgiving. Everybody that needed more time, was given more time.' Whether the early enrollment deadline should be retained is not up for debate. A potential advancement of the third examination period is not being considered at the moment.

Campuses outside of Leuven are popular

Campuses outside of Leuven are performing remarkably well. The KU Leuven has been investing in those campuses for years, a policy that is seemingly paying off. Non-Leuven campuses are evolving into an increasingly important part of the university.

The Faculty of Medicine once again remains the largest one this academic year

At the Faculty of Economics and Business, enrollment numbers are decreasing in almost all of the programmes except for the Bachelor of Business Administration on the Antwerp and Brussels campuses. Of the 13,019 students who are studying on campuses outside of Leuven, the Brussels campus is by far the most popular one with a total of 4,530 students.

With a total of 1,448 registrations, the KULAK Campus in Kortrijk records the highest number of students yet. While it is but the third most popular campus, it is the only campus outside of Leuven with a vicerector (Piet Desmet).

International students

13,735 out of 60,469 students enrolled at KU Leuven are international. Those students often end up in the faculty of Economics and Business. The second most popular campus for international students – after the Leuven campus – is the Brussels campus, in the capital.

The number of international students at KU Leuven has been increasing steadily for a number of years. At the start of the academic year, once again, more registrations were recorded than last year. Thus, in his opening statement, rector Luc Sels highlighted the importance of internationalisation for KU Leuven.

'Students did not cite The Story of Flanders as a grounds for studying History'

Lien Verpoest, History programme director

Students with a Dutch nationality once again make up the largest cohort of international students, as opposed to last year, in which Chinese students formed the biggest group. This year, 156 Ukrainian students have enrolled at the KU Leuven despite the fact that preoccupation with the Russian-Ukrainian war has subsided. 

'During the first phase of the war, the university was very preoccupied with the flow of refugees to the university', says Baelmans. 'In the meantime, however, Ukrainian students are much better prepared. We still support them individually and tune in with them. We do that for every international community that has been going through a difficult time, as is the case for the Palestinian and Israeli communities right now.'

History programme peaks 

At both UGent and KU Leuven, the number of newly started students in the History programme has increased. Leuven has witnessed an 11% increase. 'We consider that to be a significant upsurge', indicates Lien Verpoest, director of the KU Leuven History programme. 'Last year, there had been a small decrease in Master programmes, which has been offset this year.'

In newspaper De Morgen, historian Jan Dumolyn attributes the growing number of History students at Ugent to VRT 1 series The Story of Flanders (Het Verhaal van Vlaanderen in Dutch) and the Flemish Canon (Vlaamse Canon in Dutch), projects in which he himself took part. Verpoest does not agree with this: 'That statement was just an estimation. A limited survey conducted by the monitoraat has shown that, above all, students want to better understand history.'

'Also, a lot of students wish to become teachers. The Story of Flanders was not cited as a grounds for wanting to do so', Verpoest concludes.

Medicine biggest programme once again

The Faculty of Medicine remains the biggest programme in the 2023-2024 academic year, with a total of more than 10.000 students. The number of new enrollments in the Medicine bachelor has also increased for the third year in a row. 

Despite the fact that several programmes at the faculty of Economics and Business are witnessing a decrease in student numbers, the faculty remains the second biggest with a total of 9,692 students. Law and Criminology students form the third largest cohort, totalling 6,085.

European appeal

The surge in popularity of the relatively new Bachelor of European Studies is remarkable as well, with a 60% increase in enrollment. The programme, a cooperation between 8 different European universities, was only introduced in 2022 but appears to be a keeper for internationally- or European-minded students considering its increasing student numbers.

'The programme is gaining traction and students have more time to gather information about its content. Its interdisciplinary programme makes it very attractive', Baelman notes. 

The programme, for which students study at different European universities, is frequently criticised for only attracting those with sufficient means. Nevertheless, the education policy vice rector is not concerned with the alleged elite character of the programme. 'We always make sure that students from vulnerable backgrounds can also participate in those programmes by lowering study fees as well as supporting mobility financially.'

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