USOS (University Foundation for Development Cooperation) is a small non-profit organisation, financially supported by the University of Antwerp, VLIR-UOS and the Flemish-Dutch region of the Jesuits, and sustained by the voluntary efforts of staff and students. It is a unique cooperative association on the university campus with a minimum of staff and maximum operation.
USOS facilitates collaborations between UAntwerpen and institutions in the global South. The partnerships are based on the mutual exchange of knowledge and personnel, with the association aiming to organise at least one exposure (immersion trip) each year. In November 2021, we will host a group of Congolese students. The UAntwerpen students who are committed to this project will themselves travel to Congo in the summer of 2022.
Since the pandemic, the exchanges are also done in writing, namely through the Global Pen Friends project.
What USOS does
The mission of the University Foundation for Development Cooperation (USOS) is to pay priority attention to the fate of the less privileged in the global South. USOS fulfils this mission based on the conviction that every human being has the right to a dignified and free life. USOS works from a critical attitude and in joint commitment and consultation. Through its campus activities, USOS strengthens global citizenship among students and staff of the University of Antwerp. In addition, USOS develops an equal collaboration with academic partners in the global South, through the partnership approach.
USOS develops a wide range of activities on development cooperation at the University of Antwerp. These activities aim at knowledge transfer, experiential learning and personal commitment. In this way, USOS tries to form a community of students and staff who want to share involvement with the South. To this end, it uses a pedagogy that was initially based on the knowledge and convictions of the founders (see further "Origins of USOS") and that is activating, participatory and democratic in nature. This pedagogy is nourished by scientific knowledge, the collaborations with partners in the global South, but also by the experiences, the inspiration and the identity of the participants. In this way, USOS aims to create a close collaboration between all sections of the academic community in a non-hierarchical way.
Partnerships with the global South
USOS strives for equal partnerships with academic partners in the global South in terms of poverty reduction, protection of human rights and global environmental and economic sustainability. The University of Antwerp is a knowledge centre where groundbreaking and innovative research is carried out on an international level with a continuous focus on educational innovation. USOS supports the faculties and institutes of the University of Antwerp to develop socially committed, long-term, North-South collaborations. In this way USOS wants to contribute to the development of sustainable academic partnerships that are based on trust and mutual understanding, and that function in an open dialogue between different forms of scientific knowledge and other knowledge.
Through its campus and partner activities, USOS expresses 1) the wish of the founders to show solidarity with the poor (32nd General Congregation, 1975, D. 4) and 2) the demand of the University of Antwerp for students and staff to be active in university development cooperation, with special attention for the least privileged (policy note 2016-2020, p. 30-31).
USOS was founded in 1985 by the former UFSIA and the Flemish Province of the Jesuit Order. Following the merger of the three Antwerp universities, the newly-founded University of Antwerp (UA) took over from UFSIA in its care of and commitment to USOS. The Flemish Jesuits also pledged their commitment to the association. USOS owes its current existence to the University of Antwerp's pluralistic project, to the Flemish Jesuits and to the statutory cooperation between these two organisations.
In organisational terms, USOS is a non-profit organisation which is not part of the University of Antwerp. Financially speaking, USOS depends on annual stipends from the University of Antwerp and from the Flemish Province of the Jesuit Order.
As a non-profit organisation, USOS organises an annual General Assembly, which sets out and monitors its activities in general terms. Member of the General Assembly include representatives from the two organisations which fund USOS as well as representatives from USOS's partner institutions and experts.
The day-to-day management of the organisation is taken care of by the Board of Directors in a monthly meeting about both the partner activities and the campus activities. The Board of Directors is made up of individuals involved in USOS's daily activities.