A look back at a historic day


The 2023-24 academic year opening ceremonies will remain engraved in the memory of the UCLouvain community. Held in Brussels, it was an opportunity to highlight the historic merger between UCLouvain and Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles.

Three key events took place on 18 September.

The first took place during lunchtime at Brussels Town Hall, where the university invited key figures of the Brussels political, economic and socio-cultural realms.

In the presence of Wallonia-Brussels Federation Minister-President Pierre-Yves Jeholet, Federation Vice-President Frédéric Daerden, and Wallonia Vice-President Willy Borsus, Brussels Mayor Philippe Close called for “the creation of a world of higher education that transcends philosophical considerations.” Backing up these words, the Université Libre de Bruxelles alumnus donned the university cap offered to him by the Régionale bruxelloise des étudiants de l’UCLouvain (an association of UCLouvain students who hail from the Brussels Capital Region).

The ceremony was also an opportunity to hear Université de Strasbourg President Michel Deneken speak passionately about the role of universities in cities with a European destiny. “I’m very optimistic when I see how students are taking up the European university project,” he said, reminding us that beyond their different traditions, universities must work towards the same destiny: educating young people and creating knowledge. Addressing Brussels-based universities, he said, “Don’t be afraid to embark on this wonderful adventure together.”

“Voir loin, c’est se faire proche” (“Being close is to see far”)

The second highlight of the day took place in the Saint Michael and Saint Gudule Cathedral. The traditional opening mass was presided over by Msgr. Luc Terlinden, recently appointed archbishop by the Pope. During his homily, he took up the theme of the academic year – “Voir loin, être proche” (“Seeing far, being close”) – and reformulated it in order to invite each and every one of us to “se faire proche pour voir loin” (“be close to one another in order to see far”).

The day’s final event was the academic session, held in the large Ommegang 10 auditorium at UCLouvain Saint-Louis Brussels. In his welcoming remarks, outgoing Université Saint-Louis Bruxelles Rector Pierre Jadoul thanked a key individual in the merger of his university and UCLouvain, former minister Valérie Glatigny, as well as UCLouvain Rector Vincent Blondel.

The floor was then given in turn to UCLouvain Board of Governors Chair Jean Hilgers, Louvain Student General Assembly President Adélie Pirlot, UCLouvain Scientific Staff President Rémi Delogne, and Liselot Dewachter (photographed here with Rector Blondel), who spoke on behalf of recently appointed academics. Philosopher Joseph Schovanec, who works in the university’s Student Support Service, was also invited to give his views on the theme of “Voir loin, être proche”.

Rector Blondel spoke at the beginning and end of the ceremony. In his first speech, he spoke at length about the merger, unravelling “the thread of a long story of convergence and intertwined histories”. In his second speech, he expanded on the academic year’s theme, applying it to the university’s mission: “The university is continually called upon to maintain this balance between near and far. It must be present in the world and current realities. But it must also cultivate the distance that enables it to perceive the issues at stake on a broader scale.”

Links to the texts of academic session speeches are in the menu at top left.

Experience the day in two minutes

Browse the photo album

Photos: Bruno d'Alimonte

Watch the academic session