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Brussels, October 17, 2019. Today, the new buildings I, X and Y will be inaugurated at the Brussels Humanities, Sciences and Engineering campus of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. With this new, eye-catching and environmentally friendly complex, which includes additional education and research infrastructure, the university wants to increase its capacity following its continued recent growth. To realise this new building project, which cost more than €60 million, the university worked with the Brussels architectural firm CONIX RDBM Architects.


The new IXY complex on Triomflaan covers more than 33,000m². The I building has 14 classrooms and auditoriums equipped with the latest technological teaching facilities. The X building comprises 650 student rooms and numerous student services, such as housing, financing and employment. The pillar-shaped building Y, with exhibition spaces, a bar and a concert hall, will be the site of Pilar, the culture house that succeeds the legendary KultuurKaffee. Finally, on the top floor of this building there will be a special council chamber for use by the Board of Directors and the University Council, as well as for press conferences and other functions. The entire IXY complex is the largest expansion of VUB’s main campus since it was founded 50 years ago.


Green connection to the city

The three modern buildings are built along a new avenue surrounded by trees that connects the heart of the campus with the edge of Triomflaan. This allows the university not only to emphasise its green character, but also to create a clear gateway between the university and its surroundings. “A closer relationship between academia and society, between VUB and Brussels, is one of our most important priorities,” says VUB rector Caroline Pauwels. “We already do this through various projects such as, but now our campus really shows that mission. The avenue offers, firstly, a view of our campus from the outside and, secondly, makes it easier for the people of Brussels to enter the campus. For our students, the path leads straight to the city.”


During construction, daylight control, movement sensors, heating and cooling systems incorporating heat recovery, heat pumps and rainwater recovery were installed to reduce the ecological footprint. The project cost €61 million in total and was financed through the issue of bonds.


Responding to growth

This expansion of the campus is part of the university’s strong growth in recent years. This year, VUB has seen a 17% increase in enrolments (subsidised courses) than in the previous academic year. This growth can be seen in both bachelor’s and master’s programmes (14% and 21% respectively) and across all faculties, in particular in law and criminology, psychology and education sciences, but is also very strong in science and bio-engineering programmes. In addition, this year the university has 10% more first-time students. The number of students enrolled at VUB has been increasing for some time: in the 2008/2009 academic year there were 9,687 students, today there are 16.508 students.


In addition, more and more foreign students are finding their way to our university. In 2017/2018, a quarter more international students studied at VUB than in the previous year. More than half of them come from outside Europe.


Research is booming

Finally, there is also clear growth in the field of scientific research. Between 2012 and 2019, the budget for scientific research increased from €77 million to €98 million. During this period, the number of PhDs per year also increased from 185 to 253, and the university has twice as many active spin-offs today as it did 10 years ago.


“The success of VUB is a combination of several factors. We are now known as a warm, open and small-scale university where free thinking and free research are central,” says Jan Danckaert, vice-rector for education and student affairs. “This clearly appeals to students and scientists. Our location in Brussels, the capital of our country and the heart of Europe, is also an important asset. This is particularly true for students from abroad. We hope, of course, to continue this positive trend and to strengthen our position at home and abroad.”


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New: 650 new rooms and a cultural powerhouse