The studious American
“Forty years ago, Boston University established itself as the first US university to offer an American-style degree in Europe,” says Frank Billingsley, director of international graduate programmes for Boston University, during a graduation ceremony at the Brussels Town Hall for the class of 2012.
Boston University celebrates four decades in Brussels
The students at the ceremony earlier this month were an international bunch, with 32 nationalities on the Grote Markt receiving a US post-grad degree. For the US students among them, it’s a chance to study in the Capital of Europe as well as to be near NATO headquarters. The non-US students, meanwhile, are keen to study in English and to learn “the American way”.
“It’s the ‘American way’ because classes are small with an emphasis on interaction,” says student affairs manager Pamela Dalby. “There’s a great deal of discussion between the professors and the students who, in addition, are regularly assessed. Both factors set us apart from most European universities.”
The institution has its origins in another epoch. In 1972, the Cold War still cast its shadow over Europe and the world. It was the year when Nixon made his surprise visit to China and when the USSR is thought to have reached nuclear parity with the US. That year, Boston University came to Brussels to teach US servicemen who were posted in Europe. It was one of the first American universities to create a campus outside of the US.
But Boston University in Brussels, or BUB, is no Cold War relic. Its various degrees now take students from all over the world to study for a range of master’s and post-grad diplomas, including a Master in Leadership, a Master in International Relations and a Graduate Diploma in Finance. Its modern facilities are based in the pretty university neighbourhood known as Elsene Cemetery. Students enjoy plenty of nightlife and rub shoulders with brain-boxes from the neighbouring Belgian universities.
Indeed, BUB’s location and its connections make up for what it lacks in size. “Our library is small; however, students have access to Boston University’s large online facilities, and they can use the Royal Library and the libraries of the local universities,” says Dalby.
Of course, small can also be beautiful. “As we only had about 42 students last year, we got to know them very well,” she explains. “We also assist them in finding internships and can draw on a good alumni network.”
BUB’s more pragmatic approach to teaching is reflected in the diversity of its faculty. For example, faculty head Melissa Rancourt runs a project management consultancy firm and heads an NGO promoting the participation of girls in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Ambassador Reinhard Bettzuege brings a long career as a German diplomat to his teaching, while Professor Michele Chang holds the Jean Monnet chair at the College of Europe in Bruges.