Two candidates battle it out for rectorship

3 min
Text Peter De Meyer
Image UAntwerpen

Koen Augustyns or Herwig Leirs: one of these professors will be the new rector of the University of Antwerp as of 1 September. From 4 to 8 March, all students and staff can vote digitally.


In 2003, the unified University of Antwerp kicked off, with Francis Van Loon as its first rector. He was succeeded by Alain Verschoren, who would serve two terms, in 2008. In 2016, Herman Van Goethem took over the baton; his second term will end on 31 August 2024. A rector at UAntwerp can serve no more than two terms lasting four years, which means a new name will emerge from the rector elections of March 2024 no matter what.


Between 18 December and 19 January, all full-time professors at the University of Antwerp could announce their candidacy for the rectoral mandate. Conditions? Candidates should be fulltime professors at UAntwerp, and cannot reach the statutory pensionable age during their mandate. The Central Electoral Committee received two candidacies by the deadline: the rector elections will come down to a battle between professors Koen Augustyns and Herwig Leirs.

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A rector at UAntwerp can serve no more than two terms lasting four years, which means a new name will emerge from the rector elections of March 2024 no matter what.

Teams are ready


Koen Augustyns, who trained as a pharmacist, leads the research group Medicinal Chemistry (UAMC) and is the dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences. He is a former President of the European Federation for Medicinal Chemistry and was elected as a member of the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium (KAGB) in 2023. Augustyns is entering the rector elections with candidate vice-rectors Karolien De Wael, Tanja Mortelmans and Koen Vandenbempt by his side.

from left to right: Koen Vandenbempt, Tanja Mortelmans, Karolien De Wael, and Koen Augustyns

Herwig Leirs is the head of the Evolutionary Ecology Group (EVECO). Until a few months ago, he chaired the University of Antwerp’s Board of Governors. Prior to that, he was the dean of the Faculty of Science. Leirs is also on the board of directors of the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp and on the board of the Institute of Tropical Medicine. Professors Nathalie Dens, Chris Van Ginneken, Steven Van Passel and Maarten Weyn are the candidate vice-rectors on Leirs’s team.

From left to right: Chris Van Ginneken, Nathalie Dens, Herwig Leirs, Maarten Weyn, Steven Van Passel

Everyone can vote


From 4 to 8 March, everyone at UAntwerp can submit their digital vote for one of the candidate rectors. The voting total of the professors counts for 67%, while the voting totals of the students, the Administrative and Technical Staff, and the Assistant Staff and Contract Research Staff each count for 11%. The candidate that secures more than 50% of the votes wins the elections. If no one reaches more than 50%, a new voting round will be organised between 11 and 15 March. In the second round, the candidate with the highest score wins.


The university’s Board of Governors will subsequently scrutinise the voting result and give the final green light for a new rectoral mandate of four years, entering into effect on 1 September 2024.

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