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Annemie Schaus wins vote to become ULB's rector

15:07 09/09/2020

Annemie Schaus, 55, newly elected rector of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) for the next four years, wants to maintain an “open, united and enthusiastic” university.

The Charleroi-born, Belgian lawyer takes over from the gynaecologist Yvon Englert, who is retiring. Schaus won with 42% of the votes over her three competitors: François Heynderickx, Bruno Van Pottelsberghe and Pascal Delwit.

For Schaus, the vote is a strong sign people now believe in women’s ability to negotiate and to "get their hands dirty". It also shows trust in women generally, she said, welcoming that Brussels’ Dutch-speaking university the VUB (Vrije Universiteit Brussel) is also run by a woman: Caroline Pauwels, who was recently re-elected for a second term.

The new rector places social goals high on her priority list: “I want university to return to being a social emancipator,” she said, particularly for the young. Around 133,000 Francophone students needed social aid even before the Covid crisis – including one in three at the ULB, she said. And Schaus, herself a former ULB student, says the situation will worsen after the pandemic.

Former dean of law at the ULB, Schaus wants a broader baccalaureate with general culture lessons. She favours “a more universalist education”, rather than a “completely specialised” one.

For the staff – teachers, researchers and assistants – she aims to cut red tape and administrative tasks. Schaus will also continue her predecessors’ work to achieve more funding.

Other goals include giving “meaning to our academic profession; and, time for research, teaching and collective services,” Schaus said. She is also keen to reinforce the ULB’s standing in the French-Belgian and international university arena.

Schaus becomes ULB's second female rector. Françoise Thys-Clément was the first, from 1990 to 1994.

Written by Liz Newmark