The history of the sister universities, the Université libre de Bruxelles and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, is closely linked to developments in Brussels.
When a university was created in 1834, the City of Brussels housed it initially in the Palace of Charles de Lorraine and then, from 1842 in the former Palais Granvelle on Rue des Sols.
In the 1920s, in response to the growth of the student population, new sites were planned for the university at two different locations: Solbosch, much of which was again donated by the City of Brussels, and the district of La Porte de Hal (on the land occupied by the former Gendarmerie), where a medical complex, the Cité médicale, was created.
In 1969, the acquisition of the Plaine des Manœuvres solved the question of the location of the new VUB, born of the university’s separation into a French-language and a Dutch-language branch.
The universities continued to expand in the region by constructing the teaching hospitals and their campuses: UZ VUB in Jette and Hôpital Erasme in Anderlecht.
The university’s split did not represent a real parting of the ways for ULB and VUB, which were founded on common values of free inquiry. On the contrary, the ties between them have remained close, with numerous joint projects in both research and teaching: joint degrees run bilingually or in English, jointly supervised doctoral theses, joint research groups and projects and common platforms. Examples of such collaboration abound and form a solid foundation for large-scale projects.
The joint project
Today, a new stage has been reached with the Usquare project, a new multifunctional urban space that unites the universities and the general public outside the campuses, to the delight of the universities’ two rectors.
- As Caroline Pauwels, rector of VUB, explains, ‘The nature of the ULB-VUB projects has brought together different groups in Brussels and led to the development of a productive synergy for large projects such as Usquare, in which we will unify and amplify our synergies in entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity. This site will also have international aspirations, with the provision of housing for students and researchers and the creation of an international reception centre.’
- Yvon Englert, the rector of ULB, stresses that ‘The Usquare project demonstrates the commitment of our universities to the development of our Region and our citizens. By developing an interdisciplinary research cluster in the field of sustainable development, responding to the demand for family and university housing and creating synergies between the incubator, Start-lab and Fablab, ULB and VUB are working together in an open and innovative project, in the heart of the Brussels region.’