Nuclear technology plays a crucial role in a wide variety of contexts and sectors in Belgium, including power production, waste management, nuclear fuel production, etc. The Belgian Nuclear Higher Education Network (BNEN) combines the expertise in nuclear education and research of six major Belgian universities (KU Leuven, UGent, VUB, UCL, ULG and ULB) with the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK-CEN.
Nuclear technology plays a crucial role in a wide variety of contexts and sectors in Belgium, including:
The Belgium Nuclear Higher Education Network combines the expertise in nuclear education and research of six major Belgian universities (KU Leuven, UGent, VUB, UCL, ULG and ULB) with the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre.
The current programme can be divided into three core blocks:
The collaboration with SCK*CEN makes it possible to include actual use of facilities in the curriculum, supporting the development of skills and competences in a research environment. All subjects are taught by academics appointed by the partner universities, whereas the practical exercises and laboratory sessions are supervised by the experts of SCK*CEN. The Master’s thesis offers an opportunity for internship in industry or in a research laboratory.
All teaching activities take place on the premises of SCK*CEN. Courses are organised in English and in a modular way; teaching in blocks of one to three weeks for each module allows optimal time management for students and lecturers, facilitates registration for individual modules, and allows easy exchange with international students.
BNEN has served as a role model for the European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN) which now has become an association of over 60 members (universities, industry, regulators, research centres), aiming at facilitating mobility in Europe for students in nuclear engineering.
One particular aspect of the BNEN degree is that it automatically leads to the recognition as Class I Expert by the Federal Agency of Nuclear Control. In order to receive this accreditation the programme must at least offer 24 credits in Nuclear Safety and 12 credits in Radioprotection.
The Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering programme is an internationally oriented, interuniversity programme organised by BNEN in close collaboration with nuclear research centres and industry. The aim of the BNEN programme is to provide students with all the skills and scientific and technical background necessary to carry out duties at a high level of responsibility in order to ensure the safe and economical operation of nuclear power plants, the regulation and control of nuclear installations or to design new nuclear systems.
A major strength of the BNEN programme, as to its sustainability, is that it allows providing high quality academic education by experts from (or appointed by) the main Belgian universities at low individual cost and thus very efficiently harmonised/rationalised. In addition, the participation of the nuclear research centre SCK*CEN in the consortium provides superb realistic experimental facilities in a difficult (radioactive) environment at low cost for the universities.
A further fundamental strength of the programme can be found in the fact that a well-balanced curriculum is offered where the contents and format have been discussed at length with representatives of the major nuclear companies that are the first potential employers of the graduates. Objectives and programme outcomes were defined that encompass in depth disciplinary specific competences as well as, but in a less pronounced way, transferable skills and competences that are needed for an efficient integration of a graduate in a larger engineering team. There is a nearly complete overlap between objectives and realised competences in courses, electives, exercises and Master’s thesis. This can be ascribed to the following contributing factors:
Graduates possess the necessary skills and knowledge to carry out duties at a high level of responsibility in:
In addition, the degree itself is an important part of the legal qualifications necessary to become a safety professional in a major nuclear installation.