Combining culture and science: a winning idea!

Luca Giacomini


On 3-4 December, UCLouvain received a (virtual) visit from representatives of the Circle U. alliance universities and the University of Lisbon, who came to learn about the ‘artist-in-residence’ programme, attracted by the transferable skills it develops among students.

In recent weeks, experts at Circle U. partner universities began a phase of visits in order to share and analyse pedagogical transferable skills projects. Transferable skills (creativity, group work, interdisciplinarity,…)* are now considered strategic for students, alongside traditional cognitive knowledge.

This learning tour brought representatives of Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Oslo, Aarhus University, the University of Paris, and the University of Lisbon – all partners of the European Erasmus+ programme and the Innovative Education For Transferable Skills (InnovEd4TS) project – to UCLouvain to learn about both the ‘artist-in-residence’ and research-creativity programmes. Two enriching and intense days awaited them.

A means of action

During the first day devoted to the ‘artist-in-residence’ campus, a course offered as part of the culture and creativity minor, the visitors learned what’s at stake in this unique programme in Belgium. Artists-in-residence such as Luca Giacomoni and Françoise Schein explained how they introduced students in all faculties to their artistic practice. Former academic sponsors and students testified to the richness of the experience. Prof. Ralph Dekoninck, cultural adviser to the rector, reiterated that culture isn’t an end in itself but a means for transforming reality or viewing it from another angle.

The second day focused on the new dynamic recently implemented at UCLouvain: research-creativity. Just like teaching, research benefits from artistic creativity. Such hybridisation encourages encounters and crossovers between the arts and sciences, artists and scientists. Researchers and artists presented their co-created projects, such as one devoted to post-growth imagination (‘Post-Growth’) by the artist Nicolas Maigret and eight scientists, or another on the flight of migratory birds (‘Making the invisible visible’) by engineers and a Catalan photographer.

A third way to approach science

At the end, the visitors didn’t hide their enthusiasm. ‘I like the principle of bringing scientists, students and artists together to reflect on new ways of presenting facts and ideas,’ said Wolfgang Deike of Humboldt University. The University of Aarhus’s Tina Keiding, who sees culture as a third way to approach science, said, ‘It complements the scholarly approach, which is sometimes too complex, and the popularising approach, which is sometimes too simplified.’ The University of Oslo’s Peter Edwards appreciates the way UCLouvain conceived the collaboration between project participants, saying, ‘There are many activities in our universities that engage students. Few are as conceptualised as this one. It’s this dimension that most interests me.’ Representatives of the universities of Paris and Lisbon, for their part, said they gained many good ideas from their visit and were eager to put them into practice at home.

** The visit was organized by the Louvain Learning Lab, also author of a report on transversal (or transferable skills (

Learn more about culture at UCLouvain:
Learn more about the InnovED4TS project:

Photo: Director Luca Giacomini, 2020-21 UCLouvain artist-in-residence, participated in the meeting with Circle U. experts.

Published on December 14, 2020