The KU Leuven already maintains a particular connection with India. The university established Belgium’s first professorship in Indology back in 1841. In recent decades, this post has been held by Prof. Winand Callewaert, one of the most noted India scholars in Belgium. In 2009, Prof. Idesbald Goddeeris took over a number of Callewaert’s classes and now teaches History of Modern India and Global Perspectives on Contemporary India. The number of Indian students surpassed the 100 mark for the first time in 1997, and since 2009 their numbers have consistently grown every year, with 657 degree seeking students in 2020-2021. This means that Indians students are the university’s third largest group of international students. Most of these students are affiliated with the Faculties of Science, Engineering Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Theology.

India is also receiving an increasing amount of attention from other faculties at the KU Leuven. Scholars in the fields of theology, economy, law, psychology, anthropology and political science are devoting more and more attention to the South Asian subcontinent. Engineers, pharmacologists and other positivist scholars are working with colleagues and institutions in India and are succeeding in attracting an increasing number of doctoral students.

This is one reason that the KU Leuven has the largest group of Indian students of any Belgian university. The first Indian student enrolled here in 1928. Beginning in the 1970s, several dozen Indians were studying in Leuven in any given year. At first, many of these students were enrolled in the Faculty of Theology but today Science and Engineering are very well represented amongst Indian students in Leuven. Of course, relations between India and Leuven are reciprocal: Professor Broeckaert organizes study stays in India for students of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies since 2002.

It is not only contemporary India that is emphasised at the KU Leuven; the country’s rich history also attracts interest. For example, the university’s cultural archival service, KADOC, stores archives, publications, films and photographs related to India. The central library contains an excellent collection of Indological publications.

This substantial interest and intensive cooperation has even been institutionalised in the form of the Indian Students Association Leuven (ISAL), which has more than six hundred members. Every year, ISAL observes the main Hindu festivals, and both Indians and non-Indians alike are welcome at these events.

KU Leuven acknowledges its network of alumni worldwide and has set up the Alumni Chapter India a few years ago. A hub for former students, professors, researchers and exchange students, the chapter plays an important role as ambassador for KU Leuven in India.

Leuven India Focus operates under the auspices of the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, and seeks to broaden knowledge about India by organising conferences, lectures and seminars and by promoting interdisciplinary research. From 2014 to 2017, a Professorship in Contemporary India was added, funded by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).

Other higher education institutions in Leuven also maintain a special interest in India. KU Leuven Technology Campus Group T hosts most of ISAL’s activities and also has some Indian professors who are working to expand cooperation with their native country.

Leuven University College (UCLL) offers the only programme in International North-South Cooperation in Flanders. The goal of this programme is to augment the intercultural competences of young people and to assist and collaborate with the South in the realms of sustainability, reciprocity and capacity building. Each year, approximately sixty students take classes in Leuven and also spend six months in the South serving an intensive traineeship and conducting practical research. India is one of the programme’s partner countries. Students fulfil traineeships with the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), the Drydan Social Welfare Society (DSWS), the Brothers of Charity (Ranchi), SIDART (Jaipur) and the Student’s Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL).

Through India House Leuven, the KU Leuven is seeking to spread its academic and scholarly expertise on India over a wide audience.