"We will highlight UAntwerp’s impact even more"

Biologist Herwig Leirs will be rector of the University of Antwerp from September 1st.

The University of Antwerp has chosen its new rector: Professor Herwig Leirs will begin his term on September 1st. The biologist received just under 68 percent of the votes during the rector elections. "We view challenges such as globalisation, sustainability, digitalisation, and artificial intelligence mainly as opportunities,” the rector-elect responds.

Herman Van Goethem's second term concludes on August 31st. Therefore, the University of Antwerp organised rector elections from March 4th to March 8th. The two candidates to succeed Van Goethem were professors Koen Augustyns and Herwig Leirs. All members of the university community could cast their digital votes for either candidate or choose to vote blank. To be elected in the first round, a candidate had to secure more than 50 % of the votes. Blank votes also contributed to results of the first voting round.

The votes of professors (with at least a half time appointment) represent 67 percent of the final result. The votes of students, administrative and technical staff, and other academic staff each account for 11 percent.

"We will ensure that people enjoy working and studying at the University of Antwerp", says rector-elect Herwig Leirs. 

Clear majority

The digital ballot closed Friday at noon and the votes were counted immediately: Herwig Leirs (60) will be the new rector of the University of Antwerp. He received 67,92 % of the casted votes. Koen Augustyns obtained 28,92 % and 3,16 % of the votes were blank.

Prof. Herwig Leirs is head of the Evolutionary Ecology Research Group. Until a few months ago, he was the chairman of the Board of Directors of the University of Antwerp and prior to that he was the dean of the Faculty of Sciences. Leirs is also a member of the board of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp and serves as a director at the Institute of Tropical Medicine. Leirs ran for the rector elections with professors Nathalie Dens, Chris Van Ginneken, Steven Van Passel, and Maarten Weyn as candidate vice-rectors by his side.

Encourage vibrant student life

The new rector would like thank all colleagues and students for their trust. "I also thank my opponent for the serene campaign period. The fact that our programs did not differ significantly means that we will be able to quickly move forward as a united university. We aim to prepare the University of Antwerp for the future, considering challenges such as globalisation, sustainability, digitalisation, and artificial intelligence as opportunities for education, research, societal engagement, and our daily operations."

"We aspire to offer attractive programmes that meet international needs—this means also offered in English if useful —and campuses that welcome and integrate foreign students and researchers. We will continue to encourage our cutting-edge research but will also introduce core funding to reduce internal competition and workload. We will further highlight our impact, both locally and internationally, and bring innovations to the market even more efficiently. We will ensure that people enjoy working and studying at the University of Antwerp and will encourage a vibrant student life in Antwerp."

Herwig Leirs will be the fourth rector of the unified University of Antwerp. The Board of Directors will review the nomination at the end of March. His four-year term begins on September 1st.

Chris Van Ginneken, Nathalie Dens, Herwig Leirs, Maarten Weyn and Steven Van Passel will lead UAntwerpen from Sept. 1, 2024.