2018 Think Tank Call

For participation in the 2018 edition of the KU Leuven – Stellenbosch University Think Tank”, KU Leuven is looking for:


15 masterstudenten

who are motivated to engage themselves over the course of ten months in an extra-curricular and eminently multidisciplinary research project for Master’s students, in cooperation with Stellenbosch University (South Africa).

From February until November 2018, the selected students will work on a central theme, along with their 15 South African colleagues. They will develop a process-based approach to the chosen theme and they will actively define the content of the Think Tank in all its components.

At the end of the project, the results of the Think Tank will be finalized during a joint concluding workshop week. The findings will be presented during a public event.

This call is explicitly open to Master’s students from ALL KU Leuven faculties and campuses.

The central theme for the 2018 edition is:


“ The voice of the people ”

Izwi labantu – Stem van het volk – Vox Populi – Die stem van die mense


Populism is on the rise globally. On both the left and the right, people are demanding more radical intervention. On the left, the ‘enemy of the people’ are the large and increasing differences in wealth inequality. The proposed solution, according to adherents of this ideology, is for governments to implement larger redistributive policies. On the right, the ‘enemy of the people’ are immigrants and ‘outsiders’. Here, nativist, xenophobic and other exclusionary policies are proposed.

Many factors are to blame for the rise in populism, but globalisation and technological innovation are the two most likely culprits. These two trends are unlikely to slow down soon, suggesting that populist rhetoric and policies will only increase.

This will have profound implications in almost all aspects of life. What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for democracy when voters not always act in their own self-interest? Consider, for example, how Americans have voted for a Republican government that want to remove the health care many have come to depend on. What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for science when people disbelieve the majority of scientists warning about climate change? What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for law, when artificial intelligence can make far more equitable judgements? What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for technology, when robots are replacing millions of jobs? What does ‘the voice of the people’ mean for consumer choice, when an algorithm can now decide what we want before we even know we want it?

Whose voice should we listen to in the future?


Conditions for participation:


  • Candidates should have achieved excellent academic results at the completion of their Bachelor’s Studies.
  • They must be able to demonstrate social commitment and a specific interest in social issues, and they should be willing to use and share their own initial academic training in a multidisciplinary and intercultural context.
  • Candidates must be prepared to commit themselves for a longer period of time, and under the guidance of an academic team, in an extra-curricular research project.
  • Candidates also should have a good working knowledge of English, as well as excellent communication skills.
  • Candidates must be enrolled as a Master’s student at KU Leuven at the start of the Think Tank programme (February 2018).


Applications and selection:

Applications should consist of following elements:

  • A detailed curriculum vitae
  • A motivation letter of 1 page at the most
  • A copy of the transcript of your completed Bachelor’s Studies
  • And, if applicable, a copy of the transcript from any previously obtained Master’s degree

Applications must be submitted by email to Anse Heeren and they should reach us no later than Wednesday, December 6th 2017

15 participants will be selected from all the applications received.

The selected students will be notified before December 23rd  2017.

This edition of the KU Leuven – Stellenbosch University Think Tank will start in February 2018 and will end its activities after the concluding workshop week in November 2018.

Those selected students who take part during the whole course of the programme, and who add value to and complete the full process, will receive a certificate stating their successful commitment to and participation in this multidisciplinary and intercultural research program.

In addition, this honours programme is also included in the list of ‘Extra-Curricular I-Portfolio’ activities. Further details are available from the website of the Student Career Center .


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