VUB expands into Flanders with scientific public programme

VUB expands into Flanders with scientific public programme

University wants to contribute to greater social impact based on facts and dialogue

Monday 18 December 2023 – The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is launching a university-wide public programme that puts critical thinking, scientific insights and dialogue with society centre stage. The in-depth offering of the Pauwels Academy of Critical Thinking (PACT) – named after the late rector Caroline Pauwels – is also part of the new public programme. More than 100 scientists will go on tour giving lectures in secondary schools. Leading international thinkers will come to Brussels. Professors will organise exhibitions on social and scientific subjects. Workshops will teach students how to share their views. These are just some of the activities planned for the coming semester. The programme reflects our ongoing commitment to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, as an urban engaged university.

Climate change, geopolitical shifts, rapid digitalisation: the world is in transition. How can we successfully address these societal challenges? How can we mobilise communities, young people, scientists, business leaders and politicians to come up with sustainable solutions? How do you contribute to a social debate based on facts and not on wild theories or fake news? For VUB, scientific insights and knowledge sharing are the answer.

“We believe we can make a difference by critically analysing social trends,” says VUB rector Jan Danckaert. “By sharing our scientific knowledge. By working with and talking to various actors in the community. The public programme facilitates this critical view, knowledge sharing and dialogue with society. We’ll be guided by the values of the Enlightenment: freedom, equality, connectedness, critical dialogue and self-determination.”


The in-depth offering of the Pauwels Academy of Critical Thinking (PACT) – named after the late rector Caroline Pauwels – is also part of the new public programme. 

Jan Danckaert: “My predecessor Caroline Pauwels had the idea of bringing major international speakers to Brussels through an ‘academy of critical thinking’. She thought there was a need for more critical thinking, more dialogue and more nuance in the social debate. She wanted to give a platform to different voices from Belgium and abroad. We hold and cherish that idea, but we’ve also expanded it. In these volatile times, scientific knowledge is more important than ever, and our scientists contribute to the solutions of tomorrow. We want to share their visions and solutions with everyone who, like us, wants to take on their social commitment and create real impact in our society. We’re doing that with our public programme, which PACT is part of.”

PACT curator Alicja Gescinksa

Philosopher and author Alicja Gescinska is the guest curator of PACT. With the possibilistic ideas of the late VUB rector Caroline Pauwels in mind, and in collaboration with VUB scientists, she has created a varied programme for pupils, students, PhD students and a socially engaged audience. In doing so, she inspires others to look at the world in an emancipatory way and to take control to create change.

On the programme

The programme for next semester already promises a lot of variety. An exhibition on 40 years of artificial intelligence, curated by AI pioneer Luc Steels, a lecture on the Enlightenment and thinking about climate change by leading international scientist Jan Golinski, the PACT School Tour in Flemish schools: just some of the highlights.

PACT-lecture by Robert D. Kaplan in may 2023
PACT-lecture by Robert D. Kaplan in may 2023


More information

· ​ ​ Public programme | Vrije Universiteit Brussel (

· ​ ​ ​ Exhibition 40 Years of AI Lab

· ​ ​ ​ Alicja Gescinska | Vrije Universiteit Brussel (

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About Press - Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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.

The World Needs You

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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