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.
“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.