VUB names Caroline Pauwels and Paul De Knop as honorary rectors

VUB names Caroline Pauwels and Paul De Knop as honorary rectors

Caroline Pauwels and Paul De Knop, the last two rectors of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, have been awarded the title of honorary rector. De Knop was rector of VUB from 2008 to 2016, with Pauwels taking over from him until the end of February 2022. The university is awarding them this honorary title for their exceptional performance during their mandate and to thank them for their years of commitment and passion.

Paul De Knop

From the outset, Paul De Knop was resolutely committed to protecting the university’s independence. For him, being rector was not a purely academic task, it was also above all a management function. He succeeded in reorganising, reforming and professionalising the university at every level, with an ambitious General Strategic Plan as a guideline for each of his two mandates. During his eight years as rector, he realised many projects, such as a new allocation model and an ambitious investment programme that provided the largest expansion of the campus since the 1970s. Besides being an excellent manager, he was also an inspired bridge builder between VUB and all its communities.


Caroline Pauwels

“Break down the walls” was the call at the start of the mandate of possibilist Caroline Pauwels in 2016. To connect people, she said, first of all the proverbial walls between the campus and the city, between the university and society, and between scientific disciplines had to come down. She succeeded in bringing down those walls, building bridges and creating connections.

In addition, she reflected on VUB’s positioning as a pioneering Flemish university in multicultural Brussels, as an urban engaged university with an international orientation and a strong European connection through the EUTOPIA network of 10 universities. With her policy plans as a guide, VUB positioned itself as radically humanistic, radically diverse, radically democratic, radically sustainable and radically digital. As rector, she also proved to be a strong crisis manager who guided VUB through the oppressive and exhausting period of the pandemic. Despite resigning early from her position in February of this year, she remains involved with the university on various ethical and reflective themes.

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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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