Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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The Vrije Universiteit Brussel Template:Audio is a Dutch-speaking university located in Brussels, Belgium.<ref name="HigherEducationRegister">The Vrije Universiteit Brussel is one of the five universities officially recognised by the Flemish government. A list of all official institutes of higher education in Flanders is maintained by the Flemish government.</ref> It has two campuses referred to as Etterbeek and Jette.

The university's name is sometimes abbreviated by "VUB" or translated to "Free University of Brussels". However, it is an official policy of the university not to use abbreviations or translations of its name,<ref name="StijlHandboek">Template:Nl Template:Cite journal</ref> because of possible confusion with another university that has the same translated name: the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles.

In fact, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel was formed by the splitting in 1970 of the same Université Libre de Bruxelles, which was founded in 1834 by the Flemish-Brussels lawyer Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen. He wanted to establish a university independent from state and church, where academic freedom would be prevalent.<ref name="Witte1996">Template:Nl Template:Cite book</ref> This is today still reflected in the university's motto Scientia vincere tenebras, or Conquering darkness by science, and in its more recent slogan Redelijk eigenzinnig Template:Nl, or Reasonably opinionated. Accordingly, the university is pluralistic — it is open to all students on the basis of equality regardless of their ideological, political, cultural or social background – and it is managed using democratic structures, which means that all members – from students to faculty – participate in the decision-making processes.<ref name="Statutes">According to the statutes of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel: Template:Nl Template:Cite journal</ref>

The university is organised into 8 faculties that accomplish the three central missions of the university: education, research, and service to the community. The faculties cover a broad range of fields of knowledge including the natural sciences, classics, life sciences, social sciences, humanities, and engineering. The university provides bachelor, master, and doctoral education to about 8,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students.<ref name="Activiteitenverslag 2012">Figures from the 2011-2012 Yearly Report of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel: Template:Nl Template:Cite journal</ref> It is also a strongly research-oriented institute, which has led to its top-189th position among universities worldwide.<ref name="QS_Ranking">According to the 2012 QS World University Rankings. QS Education Trust. Retrieved 15 August 2013.</ref> Its research articles are on average more cited than articles by any other Flemish university.


The Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an independent institution. The members of all its governing entities are elected by the entire academic community – including faculty staff, researchers, personnel, and students.<ref name="Statutes"/> This system guarantees the democratic process of decision-making and the independence from state and outside organisations. Nevertheless, the university receives significant funding from the Flemish government, although less than other Flemish universities. Other important funding sources are grants for research projects (mostly from Belgian and European funding agencies), scholarships of academic members, revenues from cooperation with industry, and tuition fees to a lesser extent.

The main organisational structure of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is its division into faculties:<ref name="VUB Faculties">See the Template:Cite web</ref>

  • Faculty of Law and Criminology
  • Faculty of Economic, Social, and Political Sciences and the Solvay Business School
  • Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
  • Faculty of Sciences
  • Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy
  • Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
  • Faculty of Engineering
  • Faculty of Physical Education and Physiotherapy

These faculties benefit a wide autonomy over how they structure their educational programmes and research efforts, although their decisions need to comply with the university's statutes and must be approved by the central administration.

The central administration is formed by the Governing Board, which is currently presided by Eddy Van Gelder. It decides the university's long-term vision and must approve all decisions made by the faculties. The Governing Board is supported by three advising bodies: the Research Council, the Education Council, and the Senate. These bodies provide advice to the Governing Board on all issues regarding research, education, and the academic excellence of faculty staff, and may also propose changes to the university’s strategy. The daily management of the university is the responsibility of the Rector and three Vice-Rectors. The current Rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is Paul De Knop.<ref name="VUB Organogram">See the Template:Cite web</ref>


Template:See also The Vrije Universiteit Brussel offers courses in a large variety of modern disciplines: law, economics, social sciences, management, psychology, physical sciences, life sciences, medical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, humanities, engineering, physical education. About 12,000 students follow one of its 128 educational programmes.<ref name="EducationalProgrammes">According to the Template:Cite web</ref> All programmes are taught in Dutch, but 59 are also taught in English. In agreement with the Bologna process, the university has implemented the so-called bachelor-master system. It therefore issues four types of degrees: bachelor's, master's, master after master's, and doctoral degrees.

Admission to the programmes is generally not restricted; anyone can subscribe to the programme of his/her choice. However, prerequisite degrees may be mandatory for advanced programmes, e.g., a bachelor’s degree is required to subscribe to a master’s programme, and a master’s degree is required to subscribe to a master after master’s or doctoral programme. An exception to this is the admission exam to the bachelor in medicine, which is required following ruling of the Flemish government. Tuition fees are low, and even decreased or eliminated for some students with less financial means.

The academic year is divided into two semesters, each spanning thirteen course weeks: the first semester lasts from October to January, the second semester from February to June. Students take exams in January and June. Apart from the Christmas and Easter holidays (both lasting two weeks) that are normally used to prepare for the exams, students are free the week between both semesters and during the summer vacations from July to September.

The university has implemented several quality control schemes in order to preserve the high quality of its educational programmes. Each semester, all students evaluate the courses they have followed. All programmes are also regularly assessed by internal panels and by external international visitation committees. Furthermore, all programmes are accredited by the Nederlands-Vlaamse Accreditatie Organisatie, an independent accreditation organisation charged with the accreditation of higher education programmes in both Flanders and the Netherlands.<ref name="NVAO">Accreditation details can be consulted at Template:Cite web</ref>


Notable faculty:

  • Kris Deschouwer
  • Paul Devroey
  • Mark Elchardus
  • Francis Heylighen
  • Hugo Soly
  • Luc Steels
  • Jean-Paul Van Bendegem
  • Andre Van Steirteghem
  • Irina Veretennicoff
  • Els Witte
  • Lode Wyns



Establishment of a university in Brussels

The history of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel is closely linked with that of Belgium itself. At the time of the declaration of independence of Belgium in 1830, three state universities existed in the cities of Ghent, Liège and Leuven. In Brussels, the capital of the newly established country, a university was lacking. A group of leading intellectuals in the fields of arts, science, and education – amongst whom Auguste Baron and the astronomer and mathematician Adolphe Quetelet — pointed out the advantages of a university to the new capital and country.<ref name="Witte1996"/> Initially, they sought for the establishment of a state university, but the Belgian government showed little enthusiasm due to the onerous financial burden of yet another state university.

In 1834, the Belgian episcopate decided to establish a Catholic university in Mechelen with the aim of regaining the influence of the Catholic Church on the academic scene in Belgium, and the Belgian government had the intent to close the state university at Leuven and donate the buildings to the Catholic institution.<ref name="Lamberts1990">Template:Cite book</ref> The liberals in Belgium strongly opposed to this decision, and furthered their ideas for a university in Brussels as a counterbalance to the Catholic institution. At the same time, Auguste Baron had just become a member of the freemasonic lodge "Les Amis Philantropes", as had a large number of other intellectuals with enlightened ideas. Baron was able to convince Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen, the president of the lodge, to support the idea for a new university. On 24 June 1834, Verhaegen presented his plan to establish a free university.<ref name="Witte1996"/>

After sufficient funding was collected among advocates, the Université Libre de Bruxelles was inaugurated on 20 November 1834, in the Gothic room of the city hall of Brussels. After its establishment, the Université Libre de Bruxelles faced difficult times, since it did receive no subsidies or grants from the government; yearly fundraising events and tuition fees provided the only financial means. Verhaegen, who became a professor and later head of the new university, gave it a mission statement which he summarized in a speech to King Leopold I: the principle of free inquiry and academic freedom uninfluenced by any political or religious authority.<ref name="Witte1996"/>

Splitting of the university

In the nineteenth century, courses at the Université Libre de Bruxelles were taught exclusively in French, the language of the upper class in Belgium at that time. However, with the Dutch-speaking population asking for more rights in Belgium, some courses were already taught in Dutch at the Faculty of Law as early as 1935. Nevertheless, it was not until 1963 that all faculties offered their courses in Dutch.<ref name="HistoryVrijeUniversiteitBrussel">Template:Cite web</ref> On 1 October 1969, the university was finally split in two sister institutions: the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Dutch-speaking Vrije Universiteit Brussel. This splitting became official by the law of 28 May 1970, of the Belgian parliament, by which the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Université Libre de Bruxelles became two separate legal entities.<ref name="Law28May1970">Template:Nl Template:Cite web</ref>

Basic principles

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel considers itself an open-minded, tolerant, and pluralistic university.<ref name="Smaakmaker">Template:Nl Template:Cite journal</ref> Its central principles are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in particular the principle of free inquiry for the progress of humanity. The latter includes the dismissal of any argument of authority and the right of free opinion.<ref name="Statutes"/> The Vrije Universiteit Brussel is the only Flemish university that has incorporated such principle in its statutes. The principle of free inquiry is often described by a quotation of the French mathematician and philosopher Henri Poincaré:

Template:Quote This principle is also reflected in the university's motto Scientia vincere tenebras, or Conquering darkness by science, and in its seal. The seal of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel displays a beggar's wallet and joined hands on the orange-white-blue (the colours of the Prince of Orange) escutcheon in the emblem, referring to the struggle of the Protestant Geuzen and the Prince of Orange against the oppressive Spanish rule and the Inquisition in the sixteenth century.

Another basic principle of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel – also incorporated in the university's statutes – is that the institution must be managed according to the model of democracy.<ref name="Statutes"/> Practically, this means that all members of the academic community — faculty staff, researchers, personnel, and students – are represented in all governing bodies. In this way, the university ensures that everyone has a voice in its decision-making processes and participates in its management. This principles must also guarantee the independence of the university and the academic freedom.

Campus and facilities

Most of the faculties are located on the Etterbeek campus (which is actually located on the territory of the neighbouring borough of Elsene), it is the livelier of the two campuses. The activities mainly take place in the numerous auditoriums and labs. In addition, there is a modern sports centre with various rooms for sporting activities, a football pitch encircled by a running track and an on-campus swimming pool. For eating out, there is not just the student restaurant, but also the snack bars 't Complex, Opinio, KultuurKaffee. The KultuurKaffee Template:Nl is a full-fledged concert venue during the evening/night, offering the university a cultural scene and organising free concerts and events.

The campus in Jette is also a fully-fledged campus. The University Hospital (UZ Brussel) Template:Nl is in the vicinity. All courses and research in the life sciences (medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, the biomedical and paramedical sciences) are located here.


  • Arts and Philosophy
  • Economics, Political and Social Sciences
  • Engineering
  • Medicine and Pharmacy
  • Psychology and Educational Sciences
  • Sciences and Biomedical Sciences
  • Law and Criminology
  • Physical Education and Physiotherapy

Institutional cooperation

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel cooperates with several institutions of higher education. They are:

  • Brussels Chamber of Commerce
  • Erasmushogeschool Brussel (together with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel they make up the Brussels University Association)
  • Higher Institute for Re-adaptation Sciences Louvain
  • Top Industrial Managers for Europe
  • UCOS, the University Development Cooperation Centre
  • UNICA, the Institutional Network of the UNIversities from the CApitals of Europe
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • University of Kent (Brussels School of International Studies)
  • Vesalius College, an anglophone institution sharing the VUB campus
  • XIOS Hogeschool Limburg and Provinciale Hogeschool Limburg
  • Royal Military Academy
  • Worldwide, on the international level the Vrije Universiteit Brussel has concluded institutional collaboration agreements with 38 universities all over the world, and student exchange agreements with 160 universities.

International acclaim

Template:Infobox US university ranking In 2012, the VUB advanced to the prestigious top 200 of the QS World University Rankings. An overview of the last years' performance:

Year Rank (Change)
2008 214 (Template:Increase 15)
2009 227 (Template:Decrease 13)
2010 238 (Template:Decrease 11)
2011 204 (Template:Increase 34)
2012 189 (Template:Increase 15)
2013 172 (Template:Increase 17)

Student life

Every student that enrolls at the VUB, automatically becomes a member of the Brussels Studentengenootschap (BSG – Brussels Student Society), unless they refuse to be. This means that every student has the right to vote and participate in the annual elections for the BSG committee. The BSG is the umbrella organisation for all other student organizations and acts as the defender of the moral interests of the students. Together with their French-speaking counterparts ACE at the ULB, they organise the annual St V memorial.

These are some of the student organizations at the VUB:

File:Penne CM.jpg
A traditional klak or penne
  • Studiekring vrij onderzoek: a collective of students from various faculties, promoting free inquiry through the organisation of debates, lectures and more
  • Letteren-en Wijsbegeertekring (LWK) and Perskring (Pers): for students studying at the Arts and Philosophy faculty
  • Geneeskundige Kring (GK) and Farmaceutische Kring (FK): for students studying at the Medicine and Pharmacy faculty
  • Polytechnische Kring (PK) for students studying at the Engineering Department
  • Psycho-Pedagogische Kring (PPK): for students studying at the Psychology and Educational Sciences faculty
  • Kring der Politieke Economische en Sociale Wetenschappen (KEPS) and Solvay ($); for students studying at the Economics, Political and Social Sciences faculty
  • Wetenschappelijke Kring (WK): for students studying at the Sciences and Biomedical Sciences faculty
  • Mens Sana in Corpore Sano (Mesacosa or MC): for students studying at the Physical Education and Physiotherapy faculty
  • Vlaams Rechtsgenootschap (VRG): for students studying at the Law and Criminology faculty

Members of these organizations wear a klak (Dutch) or penne (French).

Furthermore, the VUB has student organizations for students with a specific regional background. They are: Antverpia (Antwerp), Westland (West Flanders), WUK (West Flanders), KBS (Brussels and Flemish Brabant), Campina (Campine), Kinneke Baba (East Flanders), Limburgia (Limburg), VSKM (Mechelen) and Hesbania (Haspengouw). There are also several organizations for specific majors within a faculty, such as Infogroep (computer science), Biotecho (bio-engineering), bru:tecture (previously Pantheon) (architecture) and Promeco (economics). Last but not least there are organizations centered around a common interest, such as the Society of Weird And Mad People (SWAMP, for all kinds of games) and BierKultuur (based on the rich beer culture in Belgium).

Notable alumni

Template:See also

Scientists & Academics

  • Patrick Baert (1961–)
  • Willy Gepts (1922–1991)
  • Leo Apostel (1925–1995)
  • Clement Hiel (1952–)
  • Christine Van Den Wyngaert (1952–)
  • Jean Bourgain (1954–)
  • Ingrid Daubechies (1954–)
  • Sophie de Schaepdrijver (1961–)
  • Kris Deschouwer
  • Raymond Hamers
  • Steven Laureys
  • Wim Leemans
  • Pattie Maes
  • Helena Van Swygenhoven
  • Els Witte
  • Guido Geerts


  • André Delvaux (1926–2002)
  • Jef Geeraerts (1930–)
  • Erik Pevernagie (1939)
  • Fabienne Demal (Axelle Red) (1968–)


  • Tony Mary (1950–)


  • Louis Tobback (1938–)
  • Annemie Neyts (1944–)
  • Norbert De Batselier (1947–)
  • Karel De Gucht (1954–)
  • Christian Leysen (1954–)
  • Patrick Dewael (1955–)
  • Frank Vanhecke (1959–)
  • Bert Anciaux (1959–)
  • Gunther Sleeuwagen (1958–)
  • Jan Jambon (1960–)
  • Maggie De Block (1962-)


  • Sébastien Godefroid (1971–), olympic sailor


  • Yves Desmet

Honorary doctorates

Notable recipients of honorary doctorates ('doctor honoris causa) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussle include:

  • Nelson Mandela
  • Václav Havel
  • Jacques Cousteau
  • Hans Blix
  • Noam Chomsky
  • Dario Fo, Sonia Gandhi
  • Natan Ramet
  • Richard Stallman
  • Johann Olav Koss
  • Herman van Veen
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Kim Clijsters

Notes and references


See also

  • Brussels Faculty of Engineering (BRUFACE)
  • Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology (VIB)
  • Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC)
  • Science and technology in Brussels
  • Science and technology in Flanders
  • Top Industrial Managers for Europe
  • Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • University Foundation

External links

Template:Top Industrial Managers for Europe Template:UNICA Template:Belgian universities