What if students from Brussels grade schools could discover exact sciences from our PhD students? That is exactly what VUB is doing for students from 5th and 6th grade of predominantly Brussels schools. That way VUB wants to lower the threshold and allows children to discover at a young age how interesting and fun science can be. This is VUB’s contribution to solve the shortage of exact scientists in Flanders. Through workshops on VUB campuses and in schools VUB wants to entice the next generation of scientists.


We got children excited about science

The earlier we introduce Brussels kids with science and VUB, the lower the threshold to higher education. That is why we aim to enthuse our future students early on in their schooling trajectory for a course or job in STEM (Science, Technologie, Engineering, Mathematics).

We have supported teachers

We have built a sustainable network of teachers in 5th and 6th grades of Dutch speaking GOK-schools in Brussels and provided extra tools to help shape their science curriculum.

We have expanded the communication skills of PhD students

We have trained PhD students to transfer their knowledge via interactive workshops in a creative way and adapted to the level of school kids.


With these challenges in mind the project is specifically aimed at students and teachers of 5th and 6th grades of Dutch speaking grade schools in Brussels. It is essential that VUB invests in its future students and guides and supports them, with a special focus on the most fragile demographic groups. And this from an early age. Since it is particularly in this phase that children exhibit large amounts of amazement and curiosity, capacities that are deemed crucial in science and technology.

PhD students at VUB receive special training in science communication with children and act as role models for these target groups.

Interested to participate? More information to register can be found here.

These partners have invested in the VUB Children's University:



On Friday 2 February Vrije Universiteit Brussel opened its refurbished swimming pool at Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus in Etterbeek. The pool is not only to be used for academic purposes by students and staff, but also by schools,  sport clubs and the entire neighbourhood. For the Brussels region has an acute shortage of public places to swim.


We want to offer as many citizens of Brussel the opportunity to swim. Caroline Pauwels, rector VUB

A paragon of societal innovation and sustainability

VUB is on a mission to create a win-win situation for all stakeholders with its new aquatic center.

The compact building that houses the swimming pool is equipped with better insulation, efficient air ventilation, heat and water recuperation and energy cogeneration. All of this meant the new VUB swimming pool is the most energy efficient pool in Brussels. At the end of 2016 Be.exemplary named the swimming pool project one of its ten reference buildings in Brussels.

Swimmers now have a choice of two pools. The main pool is 25 meters long, twelve meters wide and has a depth up to three meters. The smaller pool is thirteen meters long, seven meters wide and is equipped with a moveable bottom. This way the depth can be adapted so that babies, toddlers, senior citizens and people with disabilities can swim here safely. This is all part of VUB’s ambition to attract different target groups to its new pool.

Sporting generous changing rooms for groups and individuals, its own swimming school SWIMOVE and the expansion of various aquafitness activities VUB hopes to reach at least 130.000 visitors per year. Longer opening hours and democratic rates should further contribute to the appeal and accessibility of the swimming pool. “The pool is not only for the VUB community but also for school and clubs from the whole neighbourhood.”


947 Tiles

The total cost for the renovation of the swimming pool was eight million euro. More than half of that came from government subsidies from the European Fund for Regional Development. Minister of the Brussels Capital Region government and chairman of the VGC Guy Vanhengel, Flemish minister of Sports Philippe Muyters, Flemish minister for Brussels Sven Gatz and Brussels minister and member of VGC responsible for sports Pascal Smet also offered sizeable support.

Alumni and VUB sympathisers bought 947 virtual tiles. Further a number of private partners joined forces on this renovation project: International School of Brussels, FPIM, Yakult, IPG, Vivaqua en Chaudfontaine. The opening of the new VUB aquatic center furthermore signals the start of other projects.


Prof. Alexandre Thys Faculty Economic and Social Sciences & Solvay Business School


"After work or in between classes, 3km of laps in the pool, 3 or 4 times a week for 25 years now… A total trajectory of approximately 12.000km, or a swimming excursion from VUB to New York and back! But mostly: thousands of hours of relaxation and recreation, not only for my body, but definitely also for my mind, making good friends and staying in shape…

What more could you want? So for me supporting the VUB swimming pool was a given!”


Sebastien Godefroid, project ambassador. Silver medal winner sailing, Olympic Games Atlanta 1996. World champion sailing, finn class, 2001

"When i started studying at VUB the swimming pool had just opened. Every morning form 7 to 8 I would do laps there. Now, 25 years later, the pool needed renovation. That is why I was glad to be an ambassador for this project. In a way the smell of the swimming pool still oozed from my pores. Therefore it is with great pleasure that I supported the renovation project of the VUB swimming pool, so that many current and future students can later look back on their happy times there.”


Eddy De Smedt, Director Topsport - Belgian Olympic and Interfederal Committee (BOIC)

"Elite athletes need to be able to combine their athletic and academic ambitions in an optimal way. VUB has been a pioneer in that area for many years now. The VUB swimming pool has prepared many athletes for competition over the past decades. I am convinced that the Olympic movement has a bright future, if all actors involved join forces to optimally allocate the necessary means where needed. That is why it is essential that VUB also continues to invest in the athletes of tomorrow. The innovation of the VUB swimming pool was an absolute must in that light.”


Louis Croenen, Elite Swimmer & VUB student, medal winner European Championships swimming

"A swimmer needs to train a lot and without guidance the at VUB that combination between my sport and my studies would not have been possible. I needed a clear structure and knowledgeable people around me. VUB met both those requirements, helping me qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and win a medal at the European Championships.”





Brutus: Brussels’ tutors help high school students

VUB is… more than just studying. A motto that is perfectly embodied by Brutus. This remarkable project was started and guided academically by Machteld De Metsenaere in 2006, a driven professor with with great social commitment. Her motivation was to actively promote equal education opportunities.


BRUTUS is short for Brussels’ Tutors for high school Students: VUB students help youngsters from Dutch speaking schools in Brussels with their course work. Pupils that have trouble in school are helped: they have learning difficulties of motivation problems, they have inadequate knowledge of Dutch or live in precarious family environments where helping with homework is not self-evident. Everyone wins with the concept of Brutus. VUB students on the one hand gains practical experience and the motivation and self confidence of high school students get a serious boost on the other hand. At the same time their school results improve as well as their access to higher education.

Since 2006 no less than 6.617 students were tutored by 1428 tutors in 20 different schools. In 2017-2018, 162 VUB students helped 752 students from 12 Dutch speaking Brussels high schools, and the demand keeps growing. Now, we want to expand the project to all of Flanders and in doing so reaching 1.000 students in 17 schools.


Underprivileged youth

In the Brussels secondary education there are large groups of underprivileged youngsters, often from a migration background and with different mother tongues. These students experience difficulties to acquire competence and knowledge and have fewer chances to graduate high school. Furthermore there is a lower influx of these students into higher education. This leads to unequal education opportunities, one of the problems the Brutus project offers a solution for.  

The tutors offer underprivileged students from all grades of secondary education support with their learning process, more specifically with:

  • Free support with learning deficiencies in light of attaining a high school diploma.
  • Improved study and language skills to promote transition to higher education.
  • Improved self-sufficiency, self-confidence and motivation
  • Advice and preparation from tutor in the transition to higher education.

The tutor

The tutors are VUB students from all majors who are at least in their 2nd Bachelor year or teacher training. Their work as tutors has many advantages:

  • Build practical experience in the specific multilingual & multicultural education context of Brussels and collaborate with experience teachers
  • Develop pedagogical & social skills
  • Free tutor training (+certificate), professional experience for their resume
  • Compensation as volunteer (€) or as intern (study credit) for teaching sessions
  • Positive personal experience when tutor experience the progress their work elicits in students

Through tutoring the students quickly learn how to build a good relationship with pupils. They gain better insights in the personality of youngsters and how to react appropriately. They learn to ask parents the right questions or find angles to talk about school. Aside from that they develop a lot of tutoring skills: to be patient, motivate and enthuse, give positive feedback to youngsters. But most of all the students grow in their dealing with diversity.


Alexandre La Grappe – age 20 Tutee maths, tutor maths & physics, 3rd year bachelor engineer

“As a teenager I dreamed of becoming an engineer. I realised my math level was OK, but I wanted to improve nonetheless. The extra math classes I got through Brutus, played a large part in my realisation of that dream. It just so happened that my tutor was an engineering student. He taught me new methods to solve problems and showed me how maths is used in practice. All of a sudden mathematics become so much more beautiful. My tutor taught with passion. Now I try to convey that same passion onto the students I help. Talk about coming full circle!”

Canigia Mestdagh – age 23 Tutor Dutch/English, recently graduated in Linguistics

“During my second year I received an email from VUB concerning Brutus. I didn’t commit at the time, but the project lingered on in my head. So a year later I did enroll after all. I was considering teacher training and this project looked like the ideal test. After following the Brutus workshops I was well prepared to face the students. The unique connection that you build because of that results in you better guiding students. And as an added bonus: I got to know myself better through helping others.”

Sélim Mouhib – age 20 Tutor maths, 3rd year bachelor business administration

“For two years I was already tutoring individual students on my own before I heard about Brutus. The financial aspect of being a tutor definitely plays a role, yet that is definitely not my sole motivation. With Brutus the group dynamics are important. You teach different youngsters and that means you are more alert and focused. Aside from that I want to make a difference for youngster that are not growing up with a lot of opportunities. Often they receive little support at home. Support I try to offer them. I explain to them that if they graduate high school, they can go on to attend polytechnic college of university. I show them that they do have chances, but that they need to seize them with both hands.”


Dimokritos Kavadias - Professor Department Political Sciences VUB & Academic head of Brutus

Today we are collaborating with 12 school in Brussels. And with fine results. A number of our first generation of tutored pupils has now become tutors themselves. Yet we want to do even more. That is why we are now looking beyond the border of the region. Around Brussels we see the same issues as in the capital. With our know-how we can also help students there. With your support we can realise that next step in our trajectory!”


This partner has invested in BRUTUS:

BNP Paribas Fortis Foundation

More information
Prof. Dr. Dimokritos Kavadias

Telephone Number
+ 32 (0)2-614 81 09



VUB SeaExplorer, a world exclusive

There are roughly two ways to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Either you limit the production, or you absorb it. For the latter is plankton in our oceans extremely well suited. Only: research has shown that it is not as abundantly present everywhere. How can you increase the plankton biomass in the oceans? The answer is fertilisation with micro-nutrients which are lacking in large areas of the ocean. To know exactly which substances are best suited, research is necessary. Therefore, VUB is partnering with DEME for the purchase of an ocean robot equipped with special, in-house developed sensors.

Prof. Baeyens and a colleague work on the SeaExplorer

Life saver

A full-blown oceanographic research vessel is unaffordable. The Belgica, the Belgian oceanographic research vessel, costs about €15,000 per day at sea. In that regard, the VUB SeaExplorer turns out to be a life saver. This satellite-controlled robot was developed by ALSEAMAR (France) and can operate independently for several months. 

VUB SeaExplorer

The VUB SeaExplorer is writing history. VUB developed unique sensors that can be attached to the SeaExplorer and that can measure all micro-nutrients of plankton in the oceans. Meanwhile, two campaigns in the Mediterranean Sea were carried out and the promising results were published in the journal “Scientific Reports”. With this unique project, VUB focuses on a sustainable solution for the greatest challenge that mankind faces today!

Emeritus prof. dr. Willy Baeyens

"One of the most efficient means in the battle against rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere is enlarging the absorption of CO2 by our oceans. Plankton is very well suited for that. Before we are capable to stimulate the growth of plankton in the oceans, we must know specifically which substances we have to add when and where in order to stimulate plankton growth. We also should monitor very closely the effects of these additions. The SeaExplorer plays an essential role in these necessary studies. Its large autonomy and applicability are second to none."

Preliminary results

In the scientific article titled ‘In situ measurements of micronutrient dynamics in open seawater show that complex dissociation rates may limit diatom growth’, published on the 31th October of 2018, Willy Baeyens et al. explain their preliminary results. The research confirms that complex dissociation rates may limit diatom growth. They have obtained these results by combining a SeaExplorer glider with Diffusive Gradients in Thin Films and deploying these in the Mediterranean Sea.




Deliberate self-mutilation

In Flanders around 15% of youngsters deliberately self mutilates. Only 1 in 3 parents knows their son/daughter is deliberately self-harming themselves. Self-mutilation is an important harbinger of sucidality. Moreover the risk of developing severe psychological symptoms in this group of teenagers is high. Early detection and special treatment for self-mutilation is essential. Yet often these youngsters have no ambulant options in Flanders and end up in psychiatric care. 

Only 1 in 3 parents is aware their child is self-mutilating.

Specific ambulant treatment

To address this shortage in the care landscape, prof. Imke Baetens developed two specialised ambulant treatments for youngsters that self-mutilate and their parents. She motivated 40 accredited psychotherapists to participate in a training program that educated them in the use of monitoring as an intervention technique applied to the specific nature of self-harm and suicidality. 

Monitoring (QITonline) is a method in which processes in conventional therapies are monitored closely by systematically asking feedback from youngsters in treatment. These feedback comprises among other things of important proces aspects (e.g. motivation for therapy, relationship with therapist) and outcome aspects (e.g. severity and prevalence of self-mutilation, level of depression, self-harming behaviours such as eating disorders and suicidality). Furthermore satisfaction and care from other family members, as well as changes in family environment are tracked throughout the therapy process. 

Therapists can use this feedback to trace therapy progress and stagnation and adjust where needed. In case self-harming behaviours are diminished, some youngsters become extremely suicidal of experience eating disorders. Monitoring is a way to keep a finger to the pulse and align treatment optimally on the needs, requirements and expectations of youngsters. 

The outcomes of the specific ambulant treatment are:

  • a significant reduction in prevalence and severity of deliberate self-harming behaviour
  • an increase in the general wellbeing of the youngster, and
  • a significant reduction in psychopathological and depressive symptoms
“Looking at photos of it can be a trigger, leading other youngsters to start", prof. Imke Baetens explains.


Equally important to treatment is prevention of self-harm.

Social media further increases the danger of stimulating self-mutilation. The causes are diverse: a trauma, being bullied and even puberty. 

From October 2016 prevention packages were tested in 7 schools. The general prevention focused on making youngsters feel better about themselves again and tackling the problem at the source. The specific session dealt with the harmful behaviour: the dangers involved, the importance to communicate with ones parents. 

All students received a free general prevention package (Happyles) on mental wellbeing during regular class hours in the spring of 2017. A number of students were offered an extra module on self-mutilation based on a screening.

In e-classes youngsters were made aware of how they feel and received tips and excercises that can help them feel better about themselves. Happyles is based on ideas from positive psychology and relies on the strength of individuals while aiming to fortify protective factors in youngsters. 

D. is the mother of a 17 year old daughter.


“My daughter was 13 years old when she was admitted ambulatory to a psychiatric ward of a hospital for the treatment of anorexia nervosa. That is where she came in contact with youngsters that deliberately self-harm themselves for the first time. After two years of treatment something unexpected happened: the anorexia went away, but made room for another problem, self-mutilation. Although she tried her best to hide it, I found out rather quickly. The scars on her wrists, shoulders and legs shocked me. I felt desperate as a parent. I looked for information online but found very little. Mostly I continued to communicate with my daughter because a solution cannot be forced. Through a news show on TV I came in contact with Imke... My daughter is doing better again. She hasn't harmed herself in almost four months now. She found creative outlets to ventilate her anger, i.e. in theater and dance. I know Imke's research can help other youngsters and their parents."

J. is 21 now and was 13 when she mutilated herself for the first time.

“For eighteen months this remained my closely guarded secret, until I couldn't deal with it anymore and confessed everything to my parents at once. She were shocked but helped me the best they could. Initially my student councelor and school nurse tried helping me, but as an adolescent I didn't really allow them in. I truly went through it all: from an isolation cell in psychiatric institutions to hospital admissions and getting kicked out. I just felt like I was being tossed around in the system for years. Since I turned nineteen things have turned around somewhat. As a peer counselor I want to do my part. I am convinced that I can shine a light on how therapists could help, how they best respond and what thoughts go through a self-mutilation teenager's head. It is important for patients and caregivers to work together. I am glad to lend "my expertise" to other youngsters. At least something good will have come from my story."


+ 32-(0)2-629 25 28





Wiskunnend Wiske

Wiskunnend Wiske? Translated freely into Mathematical Mary is a game where VUB has tried to warm high school students - especially girls - for mathematical and scientific studies since 2010. Not a moment too soon, since Belgium needs more scientists and engineers. Every year more that 2000 students from 150 classes take part. An astonishing success! Yet organising this competition requires a lot of time and means. With a donation you contribute to this beautiful educational project!

Exciting preliminary round

The preliminary round consists of three assignments that need to be solved in school. These brain teasers are sent out between September and January and classes get three weeks to come up with a solution per assignment. This allows everyone to contribute based on his/her unique talents. After this selection round 40 classes or about 450 students remain. They are invited to our campus in Etterbeek to duke it out at our grand finale on Pi-day in March (3/14).

The grand finale

The grand finale on March 14th takes places at VUB. This allows potential students to get to know the university a bit better already. 

Each class is presented with 4 math problems they have to solve with their classmates, but without help from a teacher. At the end of the day the top three is lauded and all participants receive a memento.

Prof. Ingrid Daubechies

Ambassador and initiator

Baroness and professor Ingrid Daubechies - worldwide acclaimed inventor, brilliant mathematician and first female professor of maths at Princeton - came up with the idea and thought of a series of assignments to bring high school students into contact with mathematics from a different angle. 

She is assisted by two strong ambassadors: Prof. Ann Dooms (VUB) and Prof. Pattie Maes (MIT). Take a look at the images from the last edition

This project is realised with the generous support of Cegeka and the Ernest Solvay Fund, managed by the King Baudoin Foundation.

Paul Valck Mathematics teacher, Heilig-Hart & College Halle


'What makes this competition so interesting for our students, is that they can apply mathematical theory to practical situations. When I read out the assignment, I often think that they are not self-evident problems, yet always very fascinating! That is why they are always challenging. The competition definitely has a hold on the class, that is a fact!"

Anonymous - Sint-Jan Berchmanscollege Westmalle

'The nice thing about the Wiskunnend Wiske competition is that it truly requires a group effort. Often the somewhat weaker students think they'd better not take part, but because the solutions are often not at all obvious, they too can come up with good solutions. It strengthens their confidence and belief. We have seen many a student flourish because of it. The competition really has a grip on the group throughout the school year. In between classes they keep looking for answers and discussing. To be allowed a day trip to VUB for the finals is the ultimate prize for them. Other subjects often have field trips, but never maths. So it is nice for both students and teachers to be able to make this special trip."

Peter Vandewiele Mathematics teacher, Sint-Lodewijkscollege Brugge

'The preliminary rounds are incredible. I love using the problems in class because they correspond perfectly to the curriculum. Everything they know needs to be applied to these assignments, which makes it so interesting for students. They are always very keen to get started on the problems. It stimulates them because the whole competition is conceived in a very creative way. The grand finale obviously is the icing on the cake. To battle for a podium spot at VUB has become more than a challenge. Since I've seen what it elicits in students, I've decided to participate with even more classes next year."

Wall of fame

These were the winners of the previous editions:

  • Edition 2018: Sint-Albertuscollege Heverlee (5GWw-5LWw-5WWw)
  • Edition 2017: Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-van-Lourdescollege Edegem (6 WeWi8-GriWi8-LaWi8)
  • Edition 2016: Bischoppelijk College - Veurne - 6de jaar Wet-Wisk en Lat-Wisk 
  • Edition 2015: Sint-Albertuscollege Haasrode (5 GWwLWWWw)
  • Edition 2014: Virga Jessecollege Hasselt (VI 6 Latijn-Wiskunde)
  • Edition 2013: Onze-Lieve-Vrouw-Presentatie Sint-Niklaas (6WeWib - 6LWib - 6GWib)
  • Edition 2012: Sint-Albertuscollege Haasrode (6GWw - WWw - LWw)
  • Edition 2011: Sint-Jozefinstituut Essen (6WeWi)

Short facts

Project: Wiskunnend Wiske
What: Mathematical competition for classes from 11th and 12th grade
Initiated by: Ingrid Daubechies, brilliant mathematician and first female professor in mathematics at Princeton University
Organising faculties: Science & Bio-engineering sciences, Engineering sciences
Final assignment: Four problems, to be solved with classmates without help from a teacher
Grand finale: On Pi-day: 3/14
Cost: 40.000 euro/year
Goal date: Around March 14th every year

This partner has invested in Wiskunnend Wiske:

Ernest Solvay Fund, an initiative by the King Baudouin Foundation.

Academic responsible for Wiskunnend Wiske
Sabien De Mont