U bent hier
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel has held its first major conference. Wide-ranging research into the VUB identity was presented, and the current and incoming rectors spoke about what the university’s identity means in practice. Liberalism and a better link with Brussels were high on the agenda.
The conference is a first for VUB. Never before has the community been questioned so widely over the university’s image and how it should present itself. Researchers Dimo Kavadias and Didier Caluwaerts questioned more than 3,000 students, professors and alumni to see what they believe typifies VUB. The most important conclusion was that liberalism is still essential to the university community. VUB also wants to forge stronger links with Brussels and create more interaction on internationalisation, multilingualism, multiculturalism and the city as a lab.
VUB has long led the way through its free thinking: on abortion, euthanasia and fertility to name just a few fields. And the VUB community has interpreted liberalism as freedom: in thought, in expression and in research. Alongside liberalism, study participants praised VUB’s diversity and its personalised approach.
The university has been through huge changes in recent years. The pedagogical project has been examined, resulting in an ambitious educational vision and programme. Research groups have proactively created (inter)national collaborations, and more and more interdisciplinary research has seen the light. Lots of research has been translated into innovations, leading to new patents and spin-offs.
Over the last six years, VUB has also inspired a growing number of domestic and overseas students to study here. Plans for forward-looking campuses have been made, major building works have now come into being, and new policy plans have led to more professional organisation.
Brussels is the key
Five priorities for the future of Vrije Universiteit Brussel have emerged from the identity exercise. The first is to shape internationally orientated people with an open mind. The second is to encourage creativity and innovation. The third is to strengthen the connection with Brussels. The fourth is to protect our liberal character. And the fifth is to encourage remarkable students and researchers.
So VUB has to build on its position as a Flemish university in multinational Brussels. Brussels – home to the international institutions, to the EU, to global businesses – is the key to internationalisation. Scientists and students must continue to make the most of their unique position here; the incredible diversity that Brussels now has will soon be the norm. The city is a living lab for society, education and research. It gives all students who dare to study in Brussels an advantage for life.