Free University of Brussels

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This article is about the Free University of Brussels before its split in 1969. For the current Dutch-speaking university, see Vrije Universiteit Brussel. For the French-speaking university, see Université Libre de Bruxelles.

The Free University of Brussels was a university in Brussels, Belgium. In 1969, it split into the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles and the Dutch-speaking Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

The two universities continue to collaborate, and are together referred to as the Brussels Free Universities.


When the nine provinces that broke away from the Kingdom of the Netherlands formed the Belgian State in 1830, there were three state universities in the country: Ghent, Liège and Leuven. Even though Brussels had been promoted to the rank of capital, it still had no university. For this reason, in 1831 a group of leading Brussels Masonic figures in the fields of the arts, science and education set themselves the objective of creating a university for the city. They had the choice between a state university and, failing that, a private institution, since the Belgian Constitution, the most liberal in Europe, allowed for this possibility.

Finding the financial burden of the three existing universities too onerous, the Belgian government showed little enthusiasm for yet another state university. However, when in 1834 the episcopate decided to found the Catholic University of Mechlin, things began to happen very quickly. The liberal professions and Freemasons, led by Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen and Auguste Baron, who were promoting the Brussels university project, stepped up their efforts, with the result that the Free University of Belgium inaugurated its first academic year on 20 November 1834. This day, called St V is still celebrated today.

Since 1935 some courses have been taught in both French and Dutch, but it was only in 1963 that all faculties held courses in both languages. Shortly after the language dispute at the Catholic University of Leuven, in October 1969 the French and Dutch entities of the Free University separated into two distinct universities. With the act of 28 May 1970, the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Université libre de Bruxelles officially became two separate legal, administrative and scientific entities.

The school's football team won the bronze medal at the 1900 Summer Olympics.

François Englert and Robert Brout of the Free University of Brussels contributed to the "Higgs Boson" - Englert won the Nobel Prize with Higgs, Brout having died by then. (Article)

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