Helga Coppen has been elected president of the Universitaire Associatie Brussel (UAB). She has been deputy administrator-general at the Social and Economic Council of Flanders (SERV) since 2017 and lives in Schaerbeek. She succeeds Caroline Gennez as president of the UAB.
The UAB is the partnership between the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and the Erasmushogeschool Brussel (EhB), bringing together more than 180 academic and professional programmes and 26,000 students. Coppen succeeds Gennez, who has become minister of Development Cooperation and Metropolitan Policy in the federal government. She had been president since December 2013.
Coppen, 43, is a lawyer and has worked for SERV since 2017. She has previously been involved in higher education policy including as a member of the EhB’s Supervisory Board and Executive Board. She is an observer on the VUB Board of Governors and University Council.
Helga Coppen: “I am honoured to be elected president and look forward to further helping shape the educational landscape in Brussels. Brussels is where I live, a city after my own heart. Brussels is inspiring, vibrant, challenging and international. We want to further develop Brussels as the largest student city for even more Flemish and Brussels people than today. So it’s crucial that VUB and EhB remain committed to cooperation. Stimulating social mobility and community involvement is my thing. Using my experience, I also want to strengthen the network and cooperation between the labour market and higher education."
Gennez: “We have recently achieved some great structural projects. These increase the critical mass and strengthen cooperation between policymakers, researchers, programmes and students of the association partners VUB and EhB. In complex times, this joining of forces is much needed. For example, the UAB STEM support centre helps Brussels schools and teachers to develop innovative and future-oriented STEM teaching. The importance of strong Dutch-speaking higher education in our Belgian and European capital Brussels can hardly be overestimated. VUB and EhB are strong partners in that story.”
VUB rector Jan Danckaert and general director of EhB Dennis Cluydts are looking forward to the new impetus within the UAB. They are determined to work with the new president and the UAB directors to address the current challenges for higher education in a metropolitan context. “Within the UAB, we have been strengthening pluralistic and socially valuable education, research and services in Brussels and Flanders for 20 years. Steadily, we continue to work on our inclusive character, based on our commitment to the entire Brussels Capital region and beyond. We are further strengthening our cooperation with local, national and international partners,” they say.