VUB opens academic year as an urban engaged university

VUB opens academic year as an urban engaged university

Rector Caroline Pauwels launches Emergency Fund for students

Today the Vrije Universiteit Brussel opens the new academic year under the theme The World Needs You. In doing so, VUB is making a clear statement to students, employees and stakeholders about its mission as an urban engaged university. At the Academic Opening, which this year takes place at six locations because of the coronavirus, rector Caroline Pauwels will also announce the establishment of a VUB Emergency Fund for students and a joint VUB/ULB honorary doctorate will be awarded to Koenraad Tinel and Simon Gronowski.

The ambition to grow into an “urban engaged university” is part of a forward-looking policy plan with which Caroline Pauwels – who is starting her second term as rector – wants to make VUB more than ever a university that takes its scientific and social responsibility seriously, is more firmly anchored in Brussels and Europe, and works according to the principles of the Enlightenment: critical thinking, free research and radical humanism. To this end, the university will focus on six Ps: People, Peace, Prosperity, Planet, Partnership (inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals) and Poincaré. This refers to the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives the principle of free research, which will also inspire it to pursue its sustainability goals.

There will also be a new platform: De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig (The World Needs You). In the coming months, various initiatives will be brought together, launched and expanded around each P. One of these will be announced at the Academic Opening: the VUB Caroline Pauwels Emergency Fund for students, which provides extra financial, material and psychological support for students at VUB who need it. Existing instruments such as study grants and social services have proved to be insufficient. “I am convinced that this is a smart investment that ultimately concerns us all as a society,” the rector says. “Developing talents is our strongest asset. But when students are struggling, talent, commitment and dedication are sometimes not enough to get a degree. In order to guarantee equal educational opportunities, additional resources are needed, and we are going to call on individuals, companies and institutions for this Emergency Fund.”

Honorary doctorate for humanism

Finally, Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel will receive their honorary doctorate from VUB and ULB for the activities they carry out to make younger generations aware of the dangers of intolerance and racism, and for their exceptional friendship which the world can take as an example and draw hope from. They do this in the spirit of creating a peaceful society.

Simon Gronowski was born in Brussels. As a child, he survived deportation by jumping from the 20th Convoy, a train that was carrying Jews and others to Auschwitz in 1943. He holds a doctorate in law from the ULB, is a lawyer with the Brussels Bar and is the former president of the Union of Jewish Deportees in Belgium. Koenraad Tinel was born in Ghent to a family who collaborated with the Nazis. After studying at the École de la Cambre, he became a draughtsman and sculptor and taught at the LUCA School of Arts in Brussels. “We must offer new generations prospects: show them that it is possible to have a friendly relationship and build a future on the condition that one recognises the mistakes of the past,” says Caroline Pauwels. “It then becomes possible to detach oneself from the life to which the past seems to condemn one. Simon Gronowski and Koenraad Tinel give us a wonderful lesson in humanity.”

Change of chair

Meanwhile, Eddy Van Gelder is handing the torch to Karsten De Clerck as chair of the VUB board of directors. He has held the position for 18 years. His successor studied at VUB, is a senior partner at management consultancy Egon Zehnder and is already a VUB fellow.

The opening of the academic year will take place at six locations in Brussels: in the Aula Q at the Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus in Etterbeek, at the Brussels Health Campus in Jette, at the Museum of Art and History, at VUB’s House for Art and Science Pilar, at the Groentheater and at the music temple Ancienne Belgique. Each location is dominated by a ‘P’.

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Sicco Wittermans Woordvoerder en persrelaties Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Sicco Wittermans
Sicco Wittermans Woordvoerder en persrelaties 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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