Stellenbosch University – KU Leuven Student Think Tank

Are you interested in taking part in the Stellenbosch University / KU Leuven Think Tank for top academic achievers? Apply now to join 29 other students to explore possibilities around the theme: 'Health, well-being and the future of healthcare'.

Along with increasing knowledge, changing worldviews and the rapid and far-reaching technological progress, physical and mental healthcare as well as general well-being have seen a clear evolution in recent centuries. This evolution is unlikely to slow down.

More than ever before we find health and healthcare at the intersection of the three major scientific domains. Disciplines within ‘Science, Engineering and Technology’, ‘Humanities and Social Sciences’ and ‘Biomedical Sciences’ are joining forces to address present and future challenges. An interdisciplinary approach in which many opportunities arise!

Technological innovations are now making it possible to influence the course of life, and even 'life' itself. These innovations will undoubtedly improve the quality of life of many, but they also raise a lot of ethical dilemmas.

Can we guarantee access to healthcare when costs rise due to highly advanced technologies, e.g.  proton therapy, stem cell therapy, engineered pharmaceuticals, exoskeletons and advanced prostheses? Or, will only a lucky few be able to ‘buy’ a healthy long life? Will we ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, at all ages as indicated in the Sustainable Development Goals 3?  In a society with an aging population, can the increasing pressure on the healthcare system and society be tackled by innovative architecture and developments in domotica and robotica?

In future, if possible to grow custom-made human organs from a Petri dish, would that be a good thing? And, if we could extend life even further, what will the cost be for society and the planet?  Who or what will be considered worth caring for?  What will mental or physical health mean in the future? Do we sufficiently question the impact of technology on the future of health and well-being? And, if healthcare changes, medical and paramedical education may need to change as well. These are but a few of many questions and considerations.

The 2019 Think Tank is hosted in conjunction with Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert Institute.

Applications are awaited from top final-year and postgraduate students, representative from all faculties at Stellenbosch University who will engage around this theme. Please note that, in order to qualify, you need to enrol at Stellenbosch University in 2019.

All expenses for the programme will be covered by the two institutions. The programme, however, requires that you invest extra time (two hours per week). It will include an exchange visit to KU Leuven (Belgium) during November/December 2019. See terms and conditions below.


Please send the following to before or on 3 December 2018;

  • Your CV (max 2 pages)
  • A copy of your academic record
  • A personal motivation. Please make specific mention on how you understand the theme (max 2 pages).


The Think Tank is a unique initiative for the two institutions and particularly focuses on student engagement and co-curricular learning.

The programme is an annual initiative that runs from January to December with selection for the next year taking place in November. The programme includes 15 students of each institution and are mentored by the Resident Representative and other staff members (academic and non-academic).

The programme annually picks a theme that is topical and innovative for discussion from multiple perspectives, facilitated simultaneously through online mechanisms. Group meetings take place bi-weekly, exploring the theme selected, with guest speakers addressing the group from time to time. During April, the Belgians will undertook a short one week visit to Stellenbosch to explore the theme with colleagues. The conversations will continue via skype and other online platforms throughout the year. The programme will culminate in a face-to-face workshop at the end of the year. In 2019 the workshop will take place Leuven, Belgium during November.

The students (15 each) will be selected from the Top 10% from Honours and Masters (at Stellenbosch) and Master’s students (KU Leuven). This may also include recently graduated Bachelor students. The selection committee will also take into consideration:

  • Diversity – society, academic disciplines
  • Interest in societal issues and desire to make impact on society


  • Students who are pursuing a career and working full time will not be eligible to apply
  • Students have to be full time students, and be expected to attend sessions on the Stellenbosch Campus bi-weekly.
  • Students are expected to make a full year commitment, from Feb – Nov 2019
  • Students who do not complete and withdraw from the programme have to pay back the travel bursary component that was received for the visit to Belgium. This will be loaded onto a student’s account automatically.


If you have any queries, please email Werner de Wit at

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