Université Libre de Bruxelles/Vrije Universiteit Brussel
(ULB/VUB)
   The Free University of Brussels was founded on 20 November 1834 at the initiative of Théodore Verhaegen to give independent Belgium a nonsectarian university to counter Catholic institutions, most especially the Université Catholique de Malines founded the same year. Initially the university was titled Université libre de Belgique. The name was changed in 1842. It opened on the premises of the Palais de Charles de Lorraine with 96 students and a teaching staff of 36. By 1900, the student body exceeded 1,000.
   Its origins closely tied to freemasonry—Verhaegen was a prominent member of a Brussels lodge—the ULB constituted a bastion of 19th-century liberalism, its founding political and philosophical principles embodying the free-thinking, anticlerical doctrines of the era. Into the 20th century the school would retain its association with the Left, and its teaching staff counted adherents of positivism, socialism, Marxism, and their variants.
   The university received much municipal support. The city supplied most of its early funding and city councillors made up the majority on early administrative staffs. In 1842, the city ceded the property housing the university to the Belgian government but immediately placed at the school's disposal the Palais Granvelle, rue des Sols. This was demolished in 1923 to make way for the Gare Centrale, and the university is now housed at its central Solbosch campus on grounds donated in Ixelles on avenue Franklin Roosevelt. The university expanded to include the La Plaine campus, which from 1960 housed the faculty of science, the Pharmaceutical Institute, and the Victor Horta Architectural Institute. In 1970, the university began building the Erasmus training hospital in Anderlecht, which is now the site of the faculty of medicine and the school of public health.
   Original faculties include those of arts and letters, social sciences, sciences, and medicine. They were followed by the Pharmaceutical Institute (1842), the Solvay Business School (1902), an institute of urban studies (1936), a school of criminological science (1945), a faculty of journalism (1945), an institute of modern languages and phonetics (1962), a faculty of public health (1963), an institute of European studies (1963), and an institute of environmental management (1993). Altogether, the university counts today seven faculties, nine institutes, and schools of nursing and public health.
   The Bibliothèque Solvay was inaugurated on 11 November 1902. Designed by architects Constant Bosmans and Henri Vanderveld, the building housed the Institute of Sociology until 1921 when it moved to the Solbosch campus. The university press lodged in the building until 1981, after which the structure stood vacant. Increasingly dilapidated, it was listed as a historic monument by the government of the Brussels Capital Region and restored under the Brussels Regional Development Agency. The newly renovated building was inaugurated on 27 May 1994.
   The Cercle d'Histoire de Bruxelles, founded in 1983, serves as a university-based interdisciplinary research center on the history of Brussels. It counts more than 850 students.
   French was the language of instruction since inception although Dutch-language courses began as early as 1894 through the efforts of Lodewijk De Raet (1870-1914). A Dutch-language wing of the university—the Vrije Universiteit Brussel—was set up in July 1950. The VUB became an entirely separate university in 1969 at a site situated south of its French-language counterpart. In a major move toward democratization, since 1968 student representatives have been elected to the university's board of directors and its committees and also to faculty councils. In 2003, the ULB/VUB enrolled over 26,000 students, including 18,000 at the ULB and 8,000 at the VUB.

Historical Dictionary of Brussels. .

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