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Aloïs Gerlo, the first rector of the autonomous VUB

Next week, Tuesday May 23rd 2017, VUB will award its honorary doctorates. In 2011 the event was held on May 25th, in 2013 on May 28th and in 2015 on May 29th. Why always in May? The answers is simple: that is the month in which King Baudouin signed into law the legislation that gave VUB legal status. The day on which he did so, May 28th, is the day VUB officially saw the light. Through its honorary doctorates in May VUB wants to honour that joyous event. VUB’s official birthday or Dies Natalis therefore is May 28th. But the university already started its first academic year on October 1st, 1969. The reason for that coincides with the language struggle and contestation movement of the sixties. 

 

The discrepancy between the de facto start up of Vrije Universiteit Brussel and its official birth date is remarkably linked to the hoopla around the splitting of Leuven University. On April 24th, 1969 a proposed law on the proper legal position of VUB (and ULB) was already drafted. But the former government wanted to deal with the issue of the Brussels and Leuven universities together. ULB and VUB however decided not to wait and split - or double, as it was called at the time - outside the law. Not that it required taking a big risk: then minister of National Education was ULB professor Piet Vermeylen. He guaranteed both universities separate government subsidies, independent of the awarding of legal status.

 

The foundation of VUB is furthermore closely linked to Belgian history as a whole. Interested in more insights into the matter? You can always pay a visit to CAVA, the Center for Academic and Humanistic Archives, that is located on the Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering Campus of VUB in Etterbeek. A nice article (in the Dutch language) on the intercession of the history of Vrije Universiteit Brussel and that of Belgium can also be found in the digital library for Dutch linguistics