From Monday 4 to Wednesday 6 October, the graduation ceremonies took place on the Grand-Place in Brussels. During these ceremonies, we waved goodbye to our master’s students who’ve graduated this year. It was a great spectacle to mark their great achievement: obtaining a degree in such difficult times. At the same time, we looked forward with them to their future. We wished them every success in writing their own stories and armed them with some inspiration to make a difference in the world. Read the report of an unforgettable three days.

A special location for a special achievement

“Only the most beautiful square in the world is worthy of you.” - Rector Caroline Pauwels

For the second year in a row, we and our sister university ULB were invited by the City of Brussels to hold our graduation ceremonies on the Grand-Place. And there was a good reason for it. This group of students was the first to do their master’s entirely during the pandemic, unable to attend any lessons in person. It’s a special achievement that deserves the necessary recognition and a stylish send-off. It wasn’t goodbye but see you later, because their connection with Brussels, VUB and their fellow students will last forever!

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel

“The door of the City of Brussels – the largest student city in Belgium – will always be open to you: as an alumnus, as an employee, as an entrepreneur ... in our cafes.” - Mayor Philippe Close 

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel: Philippe Close

The outfit

An hour before the start of each ceremony, in the Galeries Royales, students picked up their graduation outfit in typical VUB colours: a blue gown and cap with orange tassel. Because when you’re celebrating a special milestone, you need a special outfit.

Did you know…

... the graduation year was incorporated into the tassels of the caps?

... at the conclusion of the proclamation, everyone moves their tassel from right to left? This symbolises knowledge moving from the head to the heart.

... on rainy days, the graduation outfit is complemented with a blue VUB umbrella? It still had the previous graduation year on it (2020). But hey, we’re all about sustainability!

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel: de outfit

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel

The balcony moment

“Adorable, he’s thanking his mum and dad,”; “Oh no, do I have to say more than just my name?”; “There are so many people, I daren’t …”

Emotions ran high in the wedding hall of the Brussels town hall, where students waited for their moment of glory. From the balcony, they each had to call out their own name. And that made some of them more nervous than others ...

Who is invariably thanked at every ceremony? Parents, relatives and friends. Because without their support, our new graduates might never have made it this far. And that calls for deafening applause. 

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel: het balkonmoment

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel

A well-deserved place on the podium

After the balcony, the students made an appearance on the stage at the Grote Markt. From this spot, the laureates were announced and prizes handed out. They were also addressed by generation students, inspiring alumni, professors, mayor Philippe Close and rector Caroline Pauwels.

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel

During these speeches, students were praised for obtaining their degrees in such difficult circumstances. At the same time, they were showered with wishes of success and inspiration for the new chapter of their life that’s about to begin: the search for their own mission, their own purpose.

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel: speech Khajida Reydi

“Find your Ikigai. Your life goal. Four questions can help: 1) What is your passion? 2) How do you want to contribute to a better world? 3) What are you good at? 4) What can you get paid for? You are the entrepreneur of your own life.” - Alumna Khadija Rejdy

“The world needs you, #ClassOf2021, even more than previous generations and graduates. Because you have learned so much more by studying in these difficult corona times. You know better than anyone else what the world needs.” - Rector Caroline Pauwels

“The world is counting on you to contribute to a liveable planet, to a balanced society, to social progress... I wish you much success. But also love, passion and wonder in everything you do.” - Rector Caroline Pauwels

After the speeches, our Rector Caroline Pauwels officially declared the #ClassOf2021 graduated... and ready for the future!

Graduations op de Grote Markt in Brussel: Caroline Pauwels

Was there an after-party? There was no big reception like in pre-corona years. However, our fresh graduates received vouchers to use with their own bubble in the participating Brussels cafes and restaurants on and around the Grote Markt.

A few more numbers…

: It’s the second year in a row that graduation ceremonies have taken place at the Grote Markt in Brussels.

3: We spread our graduation ceremonies out over three days.

12: The number of graduation ceremonies we organised. The 12th and last was held with our sister university, ULB. Why, we hear you ask? Well, this was the ceremony for our new graduates from the Brussels Faculty of Engineering, or BRUFACE for short. This faculty offers English-language master’s programmes in engineering and is a joint initiative with ULB.

106: The number of Brussels bars, cafes and restaurants that welcomed students with vouchers.

1793: The number of students whose names echoed across the Grote Markt (not counting the recent BRUFACE graduates)

… and the memories were captured in these photos: