Vice-rector for Education and Student Policy Jan Danckaert: “In the coming academic year, we will carefully integrate in-person and online learning experiences: this is called blended learning. In doing so, we will of course make use of the knowledge and skills we have built up through the ‘brutal digital’ leap we have made in the past year. For the first time, we can now depart from the question of how we can digitally enhance and support ‘classic’ face-to-face education and make it more activating. We can now think about the most important reasons to see students on a campus, in an auditorium, in a lab or a practice room. Answers, therefore, to the question of ‘where’ our education will take place. But the blend is not only online versus physical, but also synchronous vs asynchronous, on campus versus other locations, and steering of the learning process versus student autonomy.”
The VUB identity as an urban engaged university is primarily expressed in its anchoring and interaction with Brussels, in both its online and offline activities (WeKonekt.brussels and CERL: Community Engaged Research and Learning). Face-to-face teaching forms not only contribute to achieving the learning goals, they also play an important role in the university’s socialising, networking and inclusive objectives. At a university such as VUB, a student doesn’t come just to study: they also evolve into a young adult who is prepared to take on a role in society.
With its project The World Needs You, VUB provides a range of projects, communities, events, lessons and lectures in line with the sustainability objectives of the United Nations: People, Planet, Peace, Prosperity, Partnership.
“Our capital city offers students and lecturers concrete opportunities to set up innovative learning and research strategies. But this urban jungle sometimes requires a different approach. Lecturers transfer their content-related expertise as effectively as possible, but they also play a coaching role. In this way, students are taught the necessary skills and attitudes that can help them take responsibility in a rapidly changing urban and global society,” says Danckaert.
Curricula under the microscope and inclusive campuses
In addition, the curricula are being reviewed with a focus on anti-racism, decolonisation and diversity in the classroom and in the curriculum. For example, many programmes integrate critical reflections on colonisation and racism. In addition, VUB is focusing on inclusive campuses: accessible working and learning environments where everyone is treated with respect. If someone does feel their dignity has been violated, they can report it via a hotline.
Furthermore, VUB wants to support students from underrepresented groups in their journey to the academic world and into work. To do this, we are working with an increasingly diverse group of student associations as well as external partners.
International experience without travel
In addition, new forms of mobility will become possible. Students will be able to gain international experiences without either party – the lecturer or the students – necessarily having to travel. With our five European partner universities in the EUTOPIA network, we’ve ensured that while travel is no longer a necessary condition of studying, it can still have added value. Through this network, we’ve set up “connected learning communities” that develop learning activities across the various international campuses. Eighteen of these are already active.
In consultation with various Brussels partners, VUB is taking initiatives to promote vaccination coverage. With the Common Community Commission (GGC), VUB will set up vaccination points on its campuses between 13 September and 15 October and encourages staff, students, residents and visitors to get vaccinated on site. We are ventilating all rooms and monitoring this with the further roll-out of CO2 meters. Face masks remain compulsory during teaching activities. With all these measures, we guarantee that our campuses remain safe places to study and stay.
Jan Danckaert, vice-rector for Education and Student Policy
0486 48 80 62