New rector wants VUB to become multilingual university


Caroline Pauwels, who takes over as VUB’s rector this month, would like to see the Dutch-speaking university become more language-friendly

‘Pathway to understanding other cultures’

The new rector of the Free University of Brussels (VUB) has said that the institution should improve its relationship with its host city by, among other initiatives, increasing its multilingual character. “We are a Dutch-speaking university but have to position ourselves more as multilingual to better prepare students for the new international reality,” Caroline Pauwels told De Standaard.

Pauwels said that other languages should be introduced into bachelor’s programmes that are now only provided in Dutch. “We could take over courses in French from the ULB, our French-speaking counterpart,” she said. “Our students could also take lessons at a ULB campus.”

She would also like to offer lecturers with a French- or English-speaking background the chance to give lessons in these languages. VUB and ULB already provide an English-language Master’s programme for engineers. “We have noticed that students develop a different vision on society by following lessons in another language,” she said.

Starting this academic year, VUB also offers an English-language Bachelor’s in Social Sciences, in co-operation with Ghent University. Pauwels would like to expand this kind of co-operation to French-speaking partners, but also to others, such as German- and Italian-speaking institutions.

“More than 95% of people in Brussels speak French, more than one-third speak English and about one-quarter speak Dutch,” she said. “It would be a mistake to shut ourselves off from these other languages, as language is a pathway to understanding other cultures.”

Photo courtesy VUB

Free University of Brussels (VUB)

The VUB was established as a spin-off of the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles in the 1960s. It’s an internationally oriented and liberal institution, and the only Dutch-speaking university in the capital.
Work - The VUB is the largest Dutch-speaking employer of the Brussels-Capital Region.
St V - Every year, students honour university founder Pierre Theodore Verhaegen in a festive, booze-filled “St V” march through the city.
Campus - The VUB is the only Dutch-speaking university with a small, American-style green campus.

Master’s programmes offered


million euros in research budget in 2010

12 000

students in 2011-2012 academic year