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Mid-April, the rectors of the Brussels’ universities, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) went on a China Mission to explore new opportunities in terms of academic cooperation with Chinese universities in education and research. They were accompanied by academic representatives from various faculties, and the trip was organised by the VUB China Network at the VUB’s International Relations and Mobility Office.


The tour focussed on four areas based on the existing cooperation between ULB and VUB in terms of 1) law, humanities and social sciences, 2) communication studies and journalism, 3) medicine and sciences and 4) literary studies and linguistics, and translation-interpretation studies.  


VUB, ULB and the Communication University of China signed a trilateral agreement for student and staff mobility and research collaboration. The three parties discussed the possibilities of a joint programme from Master to PhD in the fields of journalism and new media. The Communication University of China was previously a partner of the Erasmus Mundus project which VUB coordinated in 2009-2013.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between VUB and the China University of Political Science and Law (also a former partner of the Erasmus Mundus project), and a collaboration agreement was signed between the VUB’s Institute of European Studies (IES) and Fudan University’s Centre for European Studies. Another positive outcome from the visit was an expansion of collaboration areas with Renmin University. Currently there is cooperation in EU studies and political sciences, but discussions were held to look at law, journalism and communication, foreign languages and chemistry. A similar discussion was held with other partner universities to strengthen the ties into broader areas.


The trip was also about ULB and VUB introducing each other to their partners in China. E.g. ULB presented their partner East China Normal University to VUB and VUB presented its partner Northwestern Polytechnical University of China (NPU) and Xidian University to the ULB colleagues. NPU took the opportunity to invite the VUB’s rector Prof. dr. Caroline Pauwels to make a hand print together with their President, given it was her first visit to Northwestern Polytechnical University. It will be kept as a memento in the university’s museum.


Prof. dr. Pauwels also met with some NPU students working on different airplane modules in the university’s Student Innovative Achievements Center. One of them will come Brussels to study for a master’s degree in engineering at the VUB in September. The various universities in China also presented their English-taught programmes as well as their summer schools, so VUB and ULB can inform their students of the different study options in China.


Studying in China is an amazing opportunity for students: not only do they get to experience education at prestigious Chinese universities, they also get a taste of Chinese culture and for some it is a chance to practice their Chinese language skills.


There are 160 agreements between the two Brussels’ universities (ULB and VUB) with 66 partner institutions in China and some 57 joint PhDs. The number of students involved in ‘in’ and ‘out’ activities is just over 200 a year. Given that higher education is becoming more international, it makes sense that ULB and VUB join forces to present Brussels as the centre in Europe for study, research and innovation excellence, showcasing it as a welcoming multicultural city and a strategically placed metropolis at the heart of Europe and the European Institutions.