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From next September, students at Vrije Universiteit Brussel can choose to take a new bachelor degree in maths and data science. VUB is the first university in Flanders to include data science in its maths programme, as a response to the rising demand for STEM profiles, in particular maths and data specialists, which are urgently needed on today’s job market. The university announced the new course at its annual congress The Beautiful Impact of Mathematics in Society. “Through its education offer, VUB is continuing to response to society’s current needs. We played such a pioneering role 40 years ago with our computer science programme, and with this new path we hope to repeat that,” said Jan Danckaert, vice-rector Education and Student Policy. This year, students can already start to include the mathematical aspects of data science in their curriculum.


In the new programme, data science will be integrated into the existing mathematics degree. Alongside maths, the compulsory curriculum will include physics and elements of computer science such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, which are necessary for the application of data science. Students will also be able to choose from a wide variety of optional modules in these domains as well as digital health and education, allowing them to specialise further. Integrating data science in maths training is essential for the future, says maths professor Ann Dooms:


“Today there is a huge amount of data being generated. Storing, processing and analysing all this information is an important challenge for the future. Data scientists are working on this, but there are still too few of them. That’s what we want to tackle with this programme. Since many of the methods used within data science are based on fundamental fields in maths, such as analysis, algebra and statistics, and form the basis for AI and machine learning in particular, we are deliberately choosing to integrate these various disciplines in one programme. Moreover, maths is the basis of many contemporary applications and technologies – 3D modelling, medical image processing and quantum computing are all examples that were explained at the third edition of the conference The Beautiful Impact of Mathematics in Society. Maths has never been more alive and kicking, and that will only increase in the future.”


International cooperation

To establish this unique programme in Flanders, VUB is working closely with the Université de Cergy-Pontoise in Paris, in the framework of the EUTOPIA network. The French university has offered a data science programme since last year. Within this collaboration, VUB students can conclude their bachelor degree by taking the fourth and final year of the course in Paris.


The maths and data science bachelor degree will begin in September 2020. For this academic year, the mathematical aspects of data science will start to be integrated into the maths curriculum.