In-depth programmes

Do you dare to subject your own thinking to critical examination? Are you willing to engage in dialogue with opposing voices, because they might be right? Do you want a louder voice in the public discourse? PACT’s in-depth programmes – workshops, conferences, training courses, books – will expand your critical view of social trends. 

Programme for pupils and classes

VUB-professor geeft een college

PACT School Tour

In the PACT School Tour, more than 140 respected VUB professors travel to Flemish schools and, through guest lectures, give pupils an insight into fascinating subjects where critical thinking and social engagement are central. Curator Alicja Gescinska also takes part, with a lecture on the meaning of freedom. She takes students on a philosophical quest to discover what freedom is both in theory and in practice.

This school tour is sold out. 

Cover Apate Spreekt

Theatre monologue 'Apate Spreekt'

On 10 January, pupils studying human sciences at Pitzemburg school in Mechelen will be treated to Apate Spreekt, a monologue by curator Alicja Gescinska on falsehood as a virtue. Simone Milsdochter performs the play and takes on the role of Apate, the goddess of lies. After the piece, Alicja and Simone will challenge the pupils to discuss lies versus the truth, good against evil. The show will then go on tour around Flemish schools. Spoken language is Dutch.

Register your class

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Prize for Critical Thinking

Every year, talented pupils graduate from secondary school and choose to study at our university. We want to thank Belgian teachers for this with the "Prize for Critical Thinking": a book package that teachers can give to one of their pupils during the graduation ceremony. This is a unique offer with books on all kinds of themes such as science, climate and anthropology. Moreover, these books come in a nice VUB tote bag, a nice gadget to use afterwards. Belgian teachers can apply for the 'Prize for Critical Thinking' from April.

Programme for students

Studenten werken samen op laptop

Honours programme

Students can take part in the VUB Honours Programme, an extracurricular programme for exceptional students that this year focuses on the climate crisis. In the second semester, alongside curator Alicja Gescinska, they’ll explore the subject of ecocide and the large-scale damage or destruction of ecosystems.

Discover the Honours Programme


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Elective course: Reason and Engage

Reason and Engage is an interdisciplinary elective in which students from different courses come together to think critically about urgent social issues. They learn to collaborate, be creative and commit to society. Every year, Reason and Engage takes a single central theme.

Discover this years' theme.

Student houdt pleidoor in Bozar tijdens de Student Speakers Corner

Workshop: Student Speakers Corner

On 3 May, VUB and EHB students demonstrate their oratorial skills during the Student Speakers Corner. This traditionally takes place each year on World Press Freedom Day. In a gutsy and challenging speech that should make the audience think, our students give their views on a social or political issue. Professor Gustaaf Cornelis and curator Alicja Gescinska help the students to find their “moment of truth” from April.

Programme for doctoral students

Phd Day

Doctoral Derby

During the doctoral derby, young VUB scientists learn how to present their research to the public in a simple, effective way. Whoever does it the best wins the derby. Three months of intensive preparation and tailored training precede the competition.

Read more and join the doctoral derby (VUB Sharepoint)


Eén oranje tekstballon te midden van allemaal blauwe tekstballonenn

From lab to reader: opinion pieces with impact

Curator Alicja Gescinska invites 10 VUB doctoral students to write an opinion piece together that gives them a voice as scientists. As an author and columnist, she understands better than anyone the importance of taking your place in the public debate and the impact you can have by doing so. VUB maths professor Ann Dooms, herself a columnist in De Tijd, joins in.


Programme for the general public

Kennis in internationaal perspectief

Lecture series: where does our knowledge come from?

VUB professor Cornelis J Schilt goes in search of an answer to this question and invites renowned international scientists to participate in his lecture series Knowledge in International Perspective. One lecture takes us back to the Enlightenment, another plunges us into the history of medicine. Even AI doesn’t escape this thorough retrospective. Curator Alicja Gescinska speaks to these leading speakers.


2023 boekcover Een vraag naar waarheid

Book: What is truth, and who decides?

Continually scrutinising and updating your own knowledge creates the belief that there is such a thing as “the truth”. But does truth actually exist? And who decides what the truth is? Today more than ever, truth seekers such as journalists and scientists are under pressure. We expect from them the truth and nothing but truth. Yet they face distrust, scepticism and resistance. In the book Een vraag naar waarheid (A Question of Truth), VUB scientists discuss their take on truth, and their search for it. 

Download the book for free (soon available in English).


The world needs you. Action!

Change begins with self-reflection and critical thinking, but it doesn’t stop there. As an Urban Engaged University, we invite our students, academics and colleagues to go the extra mile and act. They can take part in projects and activities based on five themes: People, Peace, Prosperity, Planet, Partnership. These themes are inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to eradicate poverty by 2030 and make our planet a sustainable place to live.

The World Needs You


Caroline Pauwels

Inspired by Caroline Pauwels

For VUB honorary rector Caroline Pauwels (1964-2022), critical thinking was a never-ending duty. Critical thinking doesn’t happen without effort, it’s never straightforward, and it always calls for nuance. And above all, dialogue. Caroline worked incredibly hard to take social dialogue to the next level. It is that interaction with students, with scientists and with wider society that we want to continue with the Caroline Pauwels Academy of Critical Thinking (PACT).  

PACT-curator Alicja Gescinska tijdens de opening in Flagey

Curated by Alicja Gescinska

The guest curator of PACT is Alicja Gescinska. With the possibilistic ideas of the late VUB rector Caroline Pauwels in mind, and in collaboration with VUB scientists, she has created a varied programme for pupils, students, doctoral students and a socially engaged audience. In doing so, she inspires others to look at the world in an emancipatory way and to take control to create change.

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Critical thinking: the DNA of VUB

"Thinking must never be subjugate, neither to a dogma, nor to a party, nor to a passion, nor to an interest, nor to a prejudice, nor to anything, but only to the facts themselves, for making it subjugate means the end of all thinking."

The French mathematician and philosopher of science Henri Poincaré wrote these words in 1908. Since then, they have been part of the DNA of VUB. They symbolise the critical thinking that we encourage from every VUB student.


With an academy of critical thinking, VUB wants to convey to the broadest audience possible that doubt, uncertainty and a growing understanding are not weaknesses, but the very driver of scientific and societal progress. it is the only way to respond to the ever more pressing challenges that we see looming in our society, on our contintent and in the world.

Read more about the mission and vision of PACT in this manifesto