On 22 September, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel opens the new academic year under the theme The World Needs You. In doing so, VUB is making a clear statement to students, employees and stakeholders about its mission as an urban engaged university. Because of the coronavirus, the academic opening, took place at six different six locations.  

Urban & engaged

The ambition to grow into an โ€œurban engaged universityโ€ is part of a forward-looking policy plan with which Caroline Pauwels โ€“ who is starting her second term as rector โ€“ wants to make VUB more than ever a university that takes its scientific and social responsibility seriously, is more firmly anchored in Brussels and Europe, and works according to the principles of the Enlightenment: critical thinking, free research and radical humanism.

To this end, the university will focus on six Ps: People, Peace, Prosperity, Planet, Partnership (inspired by the UNโ€™s Sustainable Development Goals) and Poincarรฉ. This refers to the French philosopher Henri Poincarรฉ, from whom VUB derives the principle of free research, which will also inspire it to pursue its sustainability goals.

The world needs you

There will also be a new platform: The World Needs You. In the coming months, various initiatives will be brought together, launched and expanded around each P.

One of these was announced at the Academic Opening: the VUB Caroline Pauwels Emergency Fund for students, which provides extra financial, material and psychological support for students at VUB who need it. Existing instruments such as study grants and social services have proved to be insufficient.

โ€œI am convinced that this is a smart investment that ultimately concerns us all as a society,โ€ the rector says. โ€œDeveloping talents is our strongest asset. But when students are struggling, talent, commitment and dedication are sometimes not enough to get a degree. In order to guarantee equal educational opportunities, additional resources are needed, and we are going to call on individuals, companies and institutions for this Emergency Fund.โ€

Honorary doctorate for unique friendship

Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel received an honorary doctorate from VUB and ULB for the activities they carry out to make younger generations aware of the dangers of intolerance and racism, and for their exceptional friendship which the world can take as an example and draw hope from. They do this in the spirit of creating a peaceful society.

Change of chair

Eddy Van Gelder handed the torch to Karsten De Clerck as chair of the VUB board of directors. He has held the position for 18 years. His successor studied at VUB, is a senior partner at management consultancy Egon Zehnder and is already a VUB fellow.

Photo reports:

Peace/Aula Q - Planet/Groentheater - Partnerships/Pilar - Prosperity/Museum of Arts and History - People/Brussels Health Campus - Poincarรฉ/Ancienne Belgique