Jan Danckaert named new rector of Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Jan Danckaert named new rector of Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Jan Danckaert will succeed Caroline Pauwels as rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. He received more than 62.72% of the valid votes cast to prevail over his opponent, Dirk Devroey. At the announcement of the results this morning, he expressed his honour at the result. “I am very grateful for the trust the voters have shown in me. I would also like to thank Dirk Devroey for the sporting and fair campaign and debates. The task that awaits me will not be easy, but I am confident that together we can make VUB even greater. Together we will make VUB sufficiently decisive and agile to be ready for the challenges that await us.”

The newly elected rector has a clear vision for the university. “I want to cherish what is good and strengthen what is needed. Relying on our values, and with the entire VUB community, I want our university to continue to flourish, with a focus on scientific freedom, social impact and administrative simplification.”

Jan Danckaert’s focus is on the core missions of education, research and social impact. The challenges facing universities today are great. “As much as I understand the need for calm, we must also realise that there are still difficult times ahead. We are experiencing socially turbulent times, and far-reaching choices will have to be made. That’s also true for our university. That is why we must increase our strength and agility. We will do this by simplifying our administrative processes and making our governance structures lighter. By joining forces, working together in strong partnerships, increasing scale where necessary. Transversal issues, including well-being, sustainability, inclusion and diversity, must also be higher on the policy agenda.”

Jan Danckaert’s career

Jan Danckaert (° 6 July 1964) studied physics at UAntwerp. He then became an assistant in VUB’s Engineering Sciences department and in 1992 he obtained a PhD in nonlinear optics.

After a period as a postdoctoral researcher at the FWO, he became a full-time professor at VUB in 2005 in the Sciences and (Bio-)Engineering faculty, where he now teaches introductory courses in physics. He heads about 15 researchers in the interdisciplinary Applied Physics (APHY) research group, which studies complex systems in different fields of science and technology. He has contributed to 24 successful PhDs. Many of these people now occupy prominent positions in Belgium and abroad.

As vice-rector, he successfully guided VUB through its institutional review during the pandemic. The international panel of experts spoke very highly of VUB and of its positioning as an urban engaged university. He became rector ad-interim in March 2022, following the resignation of Caroline Pauwels.

Congratulations from Caroline Pauwels

Former rector Caroline Pauwels thanks both candidates for their commitment and congratulates Jan Danckaert on being elected. “Being rector of this great VUB is a privilege, and for me it was also a real gift. I have enjoyed doing it every day, and I wish that same pleasure for Jan Danckaert. Likewise, I wish VUB its idiosyncratic pride, and the assertion of its necessary and unique place in the field of scientific excellence, as well as its important role in Brussels and society. We must not be a university like any other, but one with our own mission and identity.”

The required number of voters was achieved in all categories. All staff members of VUB and UZ Brussel as well as all VUB students were eligible to participate in the election.

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Sicco Wittermans
Sicco Wittermans Spokesperson Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Sicco Wittermans
Sicco Wittermans Spokesperson Vrije Universiteit Brussel
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Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

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The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig – The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People, because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership, VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré, the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ‘urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.



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