Students

Come join our oasis in a beautiful castle in the Ardennes. Live on a campus with freedom of speech. Discover yourself and the world, and escape from constant online and ofline distractions. Live in an open community where art, aesthetics, movement, and genuine interactions are as important as academic content. 

Is this for you? It is a place where you will expand your thinking, set up creative activities for others to join, design solutions to economic and social problems, and prepare for future jobs and studies. Graduates and academics will have made friends, acquired critical-thinking and job-relevant skills, and developed improvements to major sectors of our society.

Student Programs

Welcome! Nova Academia is a new academic institution for those wanting valuable skills, accelerated mental and intellectual development, freedom of thought and expression, an on-campus experience and community, and a pro-social constructive life. Starting in September 2024, we offer three one-year programs:

These programs take place in two schools within Nova Academia: a School of Economics and a School of Health. These share the ‘Unleash Your Curiosity’  basic curriculum for the first 6 months and then branch out. Throughout the year there are many visiting international scholars and thinkers giving workshops on a huge variety of topics, ranging from dance to global conflicts to propaganda studies, to AI.

Find out more below about these programs, selection requirements, the teachers, and the topics, or Sign Me Up Here immediately for the first 3 months of the program and for direct information about prices.

The Shared Experience

All one-year programs share a basic curriculum and a basic on-campus experience.

Unleash Your Curiosity

The “Unleash Your Curiosity” curriculum of the first 6 months includes statistics, critical thinking, and key ideas and findings of the humanities (economics, biology, psychology, history, anthropology, health). The UYC curriculum starts from scratch and helps students develop their own worldview. After the first 3 months, students specialise into one of the Schools (economics or health) but also continue with the shared Unleash Your Curiosity curriculum for another 3 months.

Healthy Campus Community

The ongoing “Healthy Campus Community” experience helps students form their own active and deliberative communities oriented towards their own health and development, as well as that of the wider community. Students will have dialogues with each other so as to decide how they are going to live together, solve conflicts, and cooperate as teams to be active and spiritually nourished.

Typical Student's Day

A typical day would consist of 3 hours of conceptual and practical learning in the morning, followed by 2-3 hours of broad development activities in the afternoon (sports, aesthetics, community activities, dance, etc.). Then about 2 hours of research and self-study. Some evenings there will be a study-reinforcement activity (e.g., student-organised debates, videos, poster sessions, or games). Weekends will feature on-campus workshops on various topics for students and for outside guests. The campus community will be regularly connected to the wider academic and social communities.

Practically, up to fifty students will be on the campus for eleven months from September 2024 to August 2025 (with holidays). The students will form communities that are active, eat healthy, are involved in pro-social activities. They will have fun but avoid unnecessary use of internet and social media.

We aim for a culture in which everyone is not only comfortable talking to everyone, but also in disagreeing with many. Mental self-development leads to well-supported self-constructed unique positions, viewpoints, and competencies.

The Programs

All Nova Academia programs are for students who have some affinity with mathematics and numbers, and a real interest in spending a year in healthy free-thinking communities. The three specific programs offer different ‘extras’ and will form sub-communities with some separate activities.

In all programs, students can initially sign up (and pay!) for just the first 3 months till Christmas 2024, then decide to continue or not. Large discounts exist for students living nearby, encouraging local participation.

The Avant-Garde Program

The Avant Garde program is for the idealistic and active young adults of the ‘Team Sanity’ communities that the organisers and academics of Nova Academia themselves come from. It helps students explore the deeper structures of Political Economy or Health Systems, provides them on-campus with a community of peers who are like themselves, hones their abilities and skills, and connects them to a wider international community. The ‘extras’ in this program include workshops specifically for them and individual mentors from the wider Team Sanity community.

The Finishing Year Program

The Finishing Year program is for students who have already done some additional education after their secondary school and want to attain job-relevant skills and expand their horizons. They also can be young professionals who have already worked for a few years, or are in the middle of studies but have a year to spend in between (like medical students with 12 months before the next phase of their study).

The students in the Finishing Year program would follow the same Unleash Your Curiosity curriculum and Healthy Campus Community experience as other students. They can choose to do either the Economics stream or the Health stream after the first 3 months. As with all other students, they will be working towards visible outputs (chapters, papers, info-graphics, videos, blogs) that they can show future employers. The ‘extras’ of this program are specific job-oriented skills workshops (like writing CVs, and job-talks), and specific job-oriented activities (like presentations and visits by and to companies).

The Gap Year Program

The Gap-Year program is for those fresh out of secondary school, or with only limited additional study, who want to expand their minds and orient themselves. They will be stimulated to become responsible self-driven curious adults, able to talk and cooperate with peers. As with all other students, they will be working towards visible outputs (chapters, papers, videos, infographics, blogs) that they can show future employers or use as a preparation for further academic study. The specific extra in this program is wide exposure to many academic disciplines via presentations and on-campus activities of visiting academics, artists, teachers, and thinkers.
Professor Paul Frijters
"Academia at its best is about beauty, where young minds discover and interpret the world; where communities of both students, academic mentors, and life mentors are built for personal and group betterment; and which is a place of intellectual light and freedom in this world. The purpose of Nova Academia for me is to embody what Academia can be and thus to be a place that discovers and spreads truth and good ways to live."

The School of Economics

The School of Economics is headed by Professors Paul Frijters from the London School of Economics, Professor Gigi Foster from the University of New South Wales, and Dr Cameron Murray from the University of Queensland. They can all be found on the mentor page and their CVs are online. They all have ongoing outside positions and are active international researchers. Several other academic economists will be involved as visitors and guest teachers, including Professor Benno Torgler (QUT) and Dr Tony Beatton.

These are accomplished mid-career academics (40-55) with many teaching and research awards and huge experience in setting up new academic institutions and curricula. Professor Frijters devised a new economics curricula at Queensland University of Technology (2006-2009), and MBSC business college (2021-2024), whilst also being awarded ‘Best Economist under 40’ by the Economic Society of Australia. Professor Gigi Foster for years was the undergraduate curriculum coordinator in the School of Economics at the University of New South Wales (in Sydney) and has developed both undergraduate and secondary-school economics curricula, whilst also winning the ‘Best Economist under 40’ by the Economic Society of Australia. Dr Cameron Murray wrote two best-selling books on the Australian economy, is a frequent media commentator, an expert in property markets, and has for years run innovative workshops into corruption and economic reforms. Professor Benno Torgler, apart from many teaching accomplishments, is one of the most cited economists in the world (top 1%).

What they will be teaching is an integrative economics curriculum oriented towards understanding the economy of the Netherlands and Belgium. After having their understanding of economics developed, students will investigate all the major sectors of the economy of the Netherlands and Belgium in the style that the books “Game of Mates” and “Rigged” investigated the Australian economy: an analysis of how the sector works, what the world-best version of that sector is, what reforms are possible based on world-best, what benefits are possible for the population from reforms, and what democratic innovations might help at the systemic level for society to self-improve via citizen engagement. Individuals and groups of students will investigate particular sectors, oriented towards producing their own chapter on those sectors, complete with material useful to explain their findings to a wider audience.

Students interested in getting a deeper idea of what the economics stream is about are encouraged to read “Rigged”

The School of Health and Society

The School of Health and Society is run by David Bell MDPhD, A-Prof Dr Maarten Fornerod, David Richards MD and Dr Erika Turkstra. They can be found on the mentor page and their CVs are online. They have ongoing outside positions and are active international researchers. Several other academics and doctors will be involved as visitors and guest teachers.

These are accomplished mid-career academics (40-60) with huge experience in setting up health projects around the world. 

What they will be teaching is a system-oriented understanding of health, so that students get a whole-person view of patients, and a whole-of-society view of major health problems. Students will learn the basics of what makes a healthy person and a healthy community; will attain a good grasp of preventative health measures and the real-world tensions between key decision makers (the individual, the community, and large (medical) institutions). Students will apply their evolving knowledge on the major health questions of our time.

Students early on in the health teaching will divide in groups that each chooses a topic that they will write an in-depth article on. These topics include, but are not restricted to: the role of AI, tunnel-vision in health, genetic medicine, gender reassignment policies, international health topics (pandemics, climate, big donors), abortion policies, and the medicalisation of normal human diversity. Students will pick one of these topics, select an actual example policy that fits their topic and then examine the ethics, politics, finance, and consequences involved. They will use their learning from both the health stream and the 6 months broad program to determine an optimal policy and to estimate the benefits of that optimal policy. They will then delve into the wider changes needed in the health systems and democratic systems to support these optimal policies. Throughout the year, students will share their findings and thoughts with each other so that the class as a whole learns about all these major areas, seeing the interconnections.

The students will end up with articles and material useful to explain their findings to their own communities.

Your questions answered

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I do this online?

No, with few exceptions like conversations with overseas mentors or force-majeur occasions, learning is on-campus and sessions are generally not recorded or put online. The campus is an internet-scarce environment where the internet is only used for essential learning and social activities.

You are free to arrange your own accommodation off-campus. Please note that, for practical reasons, we advise you to reside in the close proximity of Theux.

There will be a few classic exams (pen and paper, answering questions) on basic ideas and knowledge (such as statistics), but the vast majority of examinations will be personalised via peers, own output, and academic evaluations via our innovative Jules Verne Note methodology. So you truly will be on a personal learning trajectory whereby you get feedback on your progress.

You will get a diploma stating your progress in the main areas. Yet, your main visible output will be what you will produce yourself (chapters, analyses, videos, art works, etc.).

Whilst no university can guarantee you a job in the end, our program is specifically designed to stimulate and expand critical thinking, recognised even by the OECD as severely under-stimulated in regular universities whilst being highly valued by employers. The OECD in 2022 in its report ‘Does Higher Education Teach Students to Think Critically?’ concludes that on average, only 45 % of tested university students in the OECD were proficient in critical thinking. Only one in five demonstrated what the OECD termed “emerging” talent in critical thinking. So in regular universities, this vital and highly valued job skill is severely lacking.

As a result, major employers are dropping degree requirements (“Degree Deflation”). This includes IBM, the Governor of Virginia, and Walmart. A report from the Burning Glass Institute, based on 51 million job postings found ‘down credentialing’ among 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill occupations. Instead, they are simply directly looking for job-relevant skills.

In contrast, stimulating critical thought is precisely the strength and key aim of our academy, meaning that our students would be far ahead of the competition. Additionally, economics skills have long been recognised as highly valued by employers, whether acquired at regular universities, business degrees, or privately provided.

Students mostly interested in jobs should primarily consider our finishing school program which features job fairs and other contacts with employers.

No. We are after students who are smart, which means you have a good aptitude for learning, are curious, and can already think for yourself to a high degree. If you do not fit these criteria you will not feel comfortable anyway so there is no point then in joining us. The boot camps in June-August will be the main events for you to see whether you fit, and for us to see whether you fit.

English and Dutch for certain, French possibly. The economics stream will be in English and most visitors will speak English, but many of the students and staff will be native Dutch speakers and some workshops will be in Dutch. There might be lessons available in French, and probably there are informal lessons in Dutch and English.

In principle, you will be charged cost-price for tuition, with options for scholarships and quid-pro-quo discounts. Prices are 39,900 euro for a corporate-sponsored full-time student for a whole year. Prices for ‘regular students’ (not sponsored by a corporate employer) are lower, starting from 6,000 euro for the first three months (if you are eligible for a discount) to 25,000 euros for the whole year (without a discount). There are scholarships available for females from poor countries (via an American philanthropist), sponsored internship places in the 2025 part of the program, a scholarship for an IT student, and a discount for people who live nearby the castle. See https://novacad.org/student-interest/ for details or mail info@novacad.org

Not strictly speaking, but it is highly advised as you will need to pay an upfront deposit for the first 3 months of the program, regardless of how long you stay.

We will enroll right up until the end of August as long as there are still vacancies. There are 50 spots available in the 2024-2025 season and a spot will be deemed to be filled when payment for the first 3 months is confirmed. See https://novacad.org/student-interest/ for prices and contract options.

Teaching starts September 2nd, 2024 and the location will receive students from Thursday, August 29th, 2024.

We will have a waiting list for people above 30 so you can apply if you are above 30. The program is very time-intensive and demanding though, oriented towards helping individuals develop their learning skills, so we want to first offer places for those no older than 30. 

No. Whilst it is possible to follow the program on campus during the week and have a weekend job, the program is too demanding and full-on to be able to combine with outside activities that frequently take whole days in the week, like part-time jobs.

Our institution does not have access to international education visas. We therefore kindly ask you to arrange your own visa, travel and other administrative arrangements not directly related to your enrollment in Nova Academia.

What we do know, however, is that if your home country is either Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, or Taiwan, and if you haven’t celebrated your 30th birthday, yet, you will be eligible for a 1-year working holiday visa for Belgium. For more information, see: https://working-holidays.io/visa-country/belgium/