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VUB rector-elect Caroline Pauwels with current rector Paul De Knop (©Els De Nil)

Caroline Pauwels will succeed Paul De Knop as rector of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Professor Pauwels is currently working in communication sciences and is director of the iMinds-SMIT research centre. After emeritus professor Els Witte, she is the second female rector of VUB. 


Pauwels is delighted to have been elected, but she has great respect for the candidate who ran against her, Viviane Jonckers. “It was a fair and friendly campaign,” she said. Jonckers herself congratulated the new rector on her election and will continue to give her all for VUB.


Not only was this election notable for having two female candidates, it was also the first time that all staff members and students were allowed to have their say in choosing the new rector, alongside academic staff. Sufficient numbers of voters took part in the election that there was a clear winner after the first round of voting.

We must be a smart, urban university
Caroline Pauwels, new rector of Vrije Universiteit Brussel

The new rector set out a clear vision for VUB. “I see the university as a collective project in service of society, based on humanistic values. VUB connects. Our campuses are just a starting point, our goal lies beyond, and at VUB, the person is the measure of everything. We must be a smart, urban university. VUB, in the capital of Flanders and Europe, has a strong connection with Brussels as a lab for education and research, and it extends from here out across Flanders and Europe.”


Pauwels' maiden speech as VUB rector-elect (©Els De Nil)

Caroline Pauwels in BOZAR.

Congratulations from losing rector candidate to winning candidate (©Els De Nil)

Pauwels intends to make full use of her experience as a scientist, as director of iMinds-SMIT, as well as her experience as a manager. “I stand for a VUB that is relevant locally and distinctive internationally. A university that is multidisciplinary in its approach and focused on creating a sustainable, humane society. A VUB on a human scale.”


Departing rector
At the end of September, Paul De Knop will hand over the torch to Pauwels with great pleasure and confidence: “I congratulate her heartily. Vrije Universiteit Brussel is a large, liberal institution to which I have pledged my heart. It’s a thrilling and serious task to lead such a large and important institution with so many wonderful researchers, driven colleagues and talented students. I see a great future for VUB.”