Brochure: Planning actions for a better world

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PLANNING ACTIONS FOR A BETTER WORLD VUB - UNIVERSITY OF THE 21ST CENTURY

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COLOPHON Copyright © 2022 VUB Departement Strategy & Policy strategie@vub.be Realisation Storyline, copywriting, design: Pantarein Publishing Photography Thierry Geenen Dennis Ravays Bram Tack No part of this publication may be reproduced and/or published by means of print, photocopy, audio tape, electronically or in any other way without written permission from the VUB.

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CONTENTS

Towards a sustainable university. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Sustainable education. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Sustainable research and valorisation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Partnerships and commitment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Preamble: the structure of our organisation. . . . . . . . 5

Sustainable and climate-friendly business operations �������������������� 18

Working on inclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Inclusive education. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Making the VUB future-proof by 2030. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Research into equality and inclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Sights on 2030. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Community and engagement. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

Policy period 2021-2024. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Inclusive campuses and opportunities for all. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

3 action plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Our story. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

An inclusive personnel policy. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25

Well-being for all. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Research and education about well-being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29

Urban Engaged University. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

Knowledge platform and awareness of well-being themes

Helping to build a better world. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Bottom-up initiatives around well-being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

3 action plans . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

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A warm campus and working environment. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Help and compassion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31

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R

ector Caroline Pauwels has laid the foundation for a VUB that will be future-proof by 2030 with her policy papers and the strategic plans. Sustainability, equality and well-being form a central thread throughout. These 3 themes fit perfectly with the mission, vision and values of our university. And we intend to substantiate them. Day in, day out, we strive towards more sustainability, equality and well-being. We do that based on 3 action plans: the Sustainability Action Plan, the Equality Action Plan and the Well-being Framework. Change cannot be achieved from one day to the next but by taking on the commitment anew, every single day. And we don’t do that alone. This is a story of the entire VUB community. There is a great willingness among both students and academic and administrative staff to get behind our actions and set up initiatives. With a lot of enthusiasm and by working together, we will achieve our ambitions. This brochure tells you all about our sustainability, equality and well-being policies. What do we want to achieve and how will be realise our goals? This text will also form the basis for our first ‘report to society’, in which we will communicate the progress made by the 3 action plans.

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PREAMBLE: THE STRUCTURE OF OUR ORGANISATION In order to be able to understand how we implement sustainability, equality and well-being, let’s first explain the general structure of the VUB organisation. The rector, 4 vice-rectorates, 8 faculties and the MILO (Multidisciplinary Teacher Training Institute): our university consists of several levels of administration. In order to anchor sustainability, equality and well-being at every level, an academic coordinator has been appointed for each theme.

The rector and the 4 vice-rectorates The rector is responsible for the preparation and implementation of the university’s policy and also has general management of that policy. The rector is the face of the VUB and is elected on the basis of a vision paper describing their own ambitions for the coming mandate. The rector’s mandate begins at the start of the academic year and lasts for 4 years. There are a total of 4 vice-rectorates. Each vice-rector is responsible for the implementation of their own policy domain and policy plan. This mandate also lasts for 4 years.

8 faculties and the MILO The VUB has 8 faculties. Each faculty is responsible for the coordination of a number of research groups and study programmes. Each faculty is headed by a dean

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who has general management of that faculty. Each dean takes care of the preparation and implementation of the faculty policy. The MILO works in a multidisciplinary way on the future of teaching and trains future teaching staff.

THE STRUCTURE OF OUR ORGANISATION

4 vice-rectorates

Administrative and supporting departments Administrative and supporting departments implement, under the coordination of the general manager and the Executive Committee, the policy by converting the operational and strategic objectives into practice-oriented actions.

Research Policy

3 academic coordinators The 3 academic coordinators act as a bridge between the rector and the faculties, the vice-rectorates and the administrative departments. They ensure the anchoring of the transversal themes of sustainability, equality and well-being in all corners of the university.

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Education and student policy

faculties and the MILO

• Medicine and Pharmacy • Languages and Humanities • Law and Criminology • Social Sciences and Solvay Business School • Psychology and Education Sciences • Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences • Engineering • Physical Education and Physiotherapy • Multidisciplinary Teacher Training Institute

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THE rector

Internationalisation

Innovation and valorisation

The general manager and the Executive Committee Administrative and supporting departments People & Organisation | Infrastructure | ICT | Finance | Strategy & Policy | Prevention & Environment | Marketing, Communication & Engagement | ….

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academic coordinators Sustainability | Equality | Well-being

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MAKING THE VUB FUTURE-PROOF BY 2030 Rector Caroline Pauwels laid the basis of the VUB policy with various strategic plans and policy papers. The rector’s aim was clear from the very start: to make the VUB future-proof by 2030. Sustainability, equality and well-being all play a central role in that.

Sights on 2030 The foundation of our policy was laid during Rector Caroline Pauwels’ first mandate that began in 2016. In addition to the rectorial policy plan for 2018-2021, we also developed the General Strategic Plan 2030 which has as its aim to make the VUB future-proof by 2030. That way, we are looking further ahead than the rectorial policy plans and long-term thinking becomes a component of our operations. 5 transversal themes In the General Strategic Plan 203, we identified 5 transversal themes that define our policy:

> humanistic > digitalisation > equality > democratic > sustainability

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well-being as ‘meta-transversal’

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Policy period 2021-2024 With the General Strategic Plan 2021-2024 we continue to build on the General Strategic Plan 2030. We stick to the course, roll the policy further out and anchor it in the VUB community. Based on that vision, the vice-rectorates, faculties and departments drew up their own partial policy plans which we convert into practice by linking concrete actions and projects to them. That way, our day-to-day management is closely linked to our strategy and our policy.

Policy in motion

3 action plans

We monitor the progress of our policy each year and make adjustments where necessary. We evaluate what has been realised, the state of the art of the strategic objectives and projects based on quantitative indicators; we also closely monitor qualitative indicators. We measure the progress of our strategic objectives every 6 months, using a dashboard.

As a university, we consciously take our social responsibility. We strive for compliancy with legal requirements. And we aim to be pioneering in the area of sustainable study, research and entrepreneurship.

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In order to convey sustainability, equality and well-being from the top down, they were given an essential place in each or the partial policy plans. In addition, we launched separate action plans for those 3 themes: the Sustainability Action Plan, the Equality Action Plan and the Well-being Framework, based on

the transversal themes in the General Strategic Plan 2030. Sustainability is no longer only conveyed bottom-up by separate initiatives. It is now woven into this university’s complete operations. We implement these overarching action plans and frameworks to further stimulate and connect to each other those initiatives. We regroup the initiatives, reinforce them and position them more emphatically. The entire VUB conveys the policy and the accompanying initiatives.

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OUR STORY

As an Urban Engaged University, we are strongly anchored in Brussels but we also connect with Europe and the world. As an engaged community, we aim to join in helping to make the world a better place at all levels. And we aim to be leading in the areas of sustainable study, research and entrepreneurship.

Urban Engaged University We are an Urban Engaged University. ‘Urban’ because of our location and strong anchoring in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium and of Europe. ‘Engaged’ because of our engaged character. We position ourselves as a pioneering Flemish university and an open community in the diverse city of Brussels. We embrace diversity from our belief that an inclusive society enriches us and that socially relevant knowledge and excellent science can only flourish in a diverse environment. We unite the Brussels community with the VUB community of students, academic and administrative staff and partners. By way of weKONEKT.brussels, we join the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) in contributing to the development of a free, connected and resilient urban community.

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UNIVERSIT Y Thanks to its diversity and metropolitan complexity, Brussels is the perfect environment for research and education. Our students and teaching staff make that urban environment the subject of education and research - community-engaged research and learning. The ‘Brussels experience’ is the ultimate breeding ground for sustainability initiatives such as the BXL Living Martial Arts Lab: a living lab looking at martial arts as an emancipatory instrument for young people in a socially vulnerable situation, in which we collaborate with Brussels martial arts clubs. We make our engagement concrete in the numerous initiatives and projects we organise, facilitate and stimulate in the city.

T E AC H I N G

URBAN ENGAGED UNIVERSIT Y

RESEARCH

T E AC H I N G

RESEARCH

E N GAG E M E N T

E N GAG E M E N T

We are an Urban Engaged University thanks to our strong anchoring in Brussels and our engaged character.

Connected within Europe Based in Brussels, we are connected with Belgium and the rest of Europe. We are developing a strategic plan to anchor our university even more strongly in the broader continent. We are a part of the EUTOPIA Network, together with another 9 European universities (including Lisbon, Göteborg, Warwick, Paris, Barcelona, Ljubljana, Dresden and Hamburg). We strengthen the contacts with our partner universities and set up new collaborations.

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Helping to build a better world Studying at the VUB means more than merely acquiring knowledge and learning to think independently and critically: at the VUB we also want to help build a better world. We call on the entire VUB community to deploy their knowledge and talent through ‘The World Needs You’. For better living conditions, equal rights, peace, freedom of expression, a better environment... Use your expertise as a researcher, the knowledge you acquire during your study programme or through the dozens of projects you can work on, such as the Edukado vzw construction projects in low-income countries such as India, Burkina Faso and Bangladesh or Brutus, the project which lets students become tutors in secondary schools in Brussels. Everyone can commit and contribute to tackling the global challenges of today.

Our source of inspiration is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 5 Ps - People, Planet, Peace, Prosperity and Partnership - of the United Nations. We’d like to add a 6th P: the P for Poincaré. It stands for our humanist values, critical thinking and the philosophy of free research and is inspired by the French philosopher of science, Henri Poincaré from whom we have borrowed the motto “thinking must never

submit to anything other than the facts themselves”. The 6 Ps resonate perfectly with how we see the ideas of our Urban Engaged University. The 6 Ps are backed by numerous ideas, projects and programmes. We have collected them together at www.theworldneedsyou.be. From that engaged hub, we invite everyone to search for their own purpose and genuinely commit.

The SDGs as a compass

There are 3 values central to The World Needs You:

We connect the VUB policy with the bigger picture by way of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by the United Nations in 2015. We take our responsibility with regard to our stakeholders and the planet and use the SDGs as a compass.

> empathic solidarity: we take as our starting point the perspective of the world (and not the first person perspective), searching for that which connects.

In 2019, we asked our internal and external stakeholders on which domains the VUB can and should make an impact in the future. SDG4 - ‘Quality education’

was the top priority in their answers. ‘Good health and well-being (SDG3), ‘partnerships’ (SDG17), ‘research’ (SDG4), ‘sustainable urban development with Brussels (SDG11), ‘actions on climate’ (SDG13), ‘renewable energy’ (SDG7), ‘energy-efficient buildings’ (SDG9) and ‘inequality’ (SDG 5 and 10) are priority topics for our university. All those priority topics are embodied in our policy and our daily operations.

> self-assured: we have something to offer the world free thinking without borders, dealing confidently with the future. > activating: we strive for and call for responsibility and engagement.

POINCARÉ PEACE PEOPLE

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PARTNERSHIPS

PLANET

PROSPERITY

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3PLA

NS OF ACT ION P L A N N I N G AC T I O N S F O R A B E T T E R WO R L D

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n order to evolve resolutely into a future-proof university, we are implementing 3 plans of action for the period 2021 to 2024: the Sustainability Action Plan, the Equality Action Plan and the Well-being Framework. These plans form our strategy to make a difference for people and planet, as VUB community. At an operational level, the plans fall within 3 different policy areas at the VUB, with the corresponding mandates and responsibilities. We have also drafted an implementation structure for each action plan, so we can firmly anchor sustainability in all its aspects - living environment, equality and well-being - in the future operations and organisation of our university.

If you’d like to find out more about the actions taking place at the VUB, surf to www.vub.be/en.

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ACT ION PL A N1 P L A N N I N G AC T I O N S F O R A B E T T E R WO R L D

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First sustainability vision 1.0 and 23 goals are approved

The sustainability effect formally becomes transversal policy in the General Strategic Plan 2030

Kick-off GreenTeam

How did the Sustainability Action Plan come about?

2014

2011

Student restaurant is awarded Good-food-label BXL Kick-off Community Engaged Research and Learning centre of expertise

2018 Launch of a universitywide course: Sustainabilty, an interdisciplinary approach

Baseline measurement sustainability in curriculum

The vision text Competences for Sustainable Development in VUB education

Kick-off first VUB Living Lab: WVDM, sustainable renovation strategies

2015 2016

2017 Our business travel policy, the Travel ABC, is approved

Our university's swimming pool is acknowledged as Exemplary Building BXL Start installation of solar panels on all roofs

2021 2019 Kick-off Living Lab climate adaptation and biodiversity

2020 SDG Materiality analysis by the VUB

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Sustainability forum and #WeAreParis draw participatory card

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ustainable development has been one of our core values for more than 10 years. The vision and strategic goals we set in 2011 have formed the guiding principle for our policy since then. Those goals also inspired the current Sustainability Action Plan, adding up-to-date objectives. The Sustainability Action Plan is a dynamic agenda that revolves around a participatory approach. Maximum commitment by the entire VUB community and bottom-up, accessible awareness raising are defining in the rollout of the action plan. The GreenTeam, a group of committed students, and the Sustainability core group form the point of contact for VUB staff and students who want to set up initiatives around sustainability.

Sustainability Action Plan is implemented

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OUR GOALS

Waldo Galle, academic coordinator for sustainability

Our aim is to be a flourishing university and at the same time, to organise our operations within the planet’s boundaries. Our goal is to be a CO2-neutral organisation by 2050. We inspire our employees, students, partners and other social actors through our research and our study programmes and by anchoring care for the planet in our operations, to join us in realising the change in system. We pool our ambitions for the planet in 3 strategic goals:

“A great many VUB community members have gathered knowledge about sustainability challenges and resolutions based on their social engagement and through research freedom. They share that knowledge through education and we, students and partners, become future-proof. But in order to build towards a better world we, as an organisation and a community, have to also apply that knowledge in practice. That will be a process of trial and error.”

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> We accelerate our sustainability transition in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on which we have a material impact. > We will become a learning organisation, in which everyone acquires and shares knowledge and skills about and for the green transition. > We walk the talk: we do what we say we will and say what we’ll do. By daring to anchor successes in the field of sustainability and at the same time, offering scope for learning and experimentation, we position ourselves as a university that commits, in both word and deed.

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IN PRACTICE Sustainable education The Sustainability Action Plan covers 4 domains that are mutually reinforcing:

> sustainable education > sustainable research and valorisation

> partnerships and commitment > sustainable and climate-friendly business operations

Sustainable development will be a fundamental component of our educational programmes. We aim to give all VUB students the chance of acquiring knowledge and competences with regard to sustainability and of committing to a sustainable society. The VUB campuses and the cosmopolitan city of Brussels form an excellent learning environment for that goal. We are also creating a professionalisation programme on sustainable development for teaching staff. Sustainable development for every student In the context of the Sustainability Action Plan, we are expanding the range of study programmes on sustainable development and increasing its visibility and accessibility through an inventory of the existing subjects. We also want to make it easier for study programmes to incorporate sustainability subjects in their range of courses. In future, we would like to label our courses so that our students can more easily find urban engaged courses. Curriculum reform is an excellent place to start firmly anchoring the range of sustainable study programme components. We are also experimenting with the effect of new learning paths about sustainability on existing study programmes. There are many aspects to sustainable development and we aim to offer that rich array of perspectives through our study programmes. Sustainability programmes for teaching staff We are investing in professionalisation of teaching staff and a supporting programme in order to accelerate

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our transition to sustainable and socially engaged education. And teaching staff can also make use of the Community Engaged Research and Learning expertise centre (CERL) to continue their development in the area of urban engaged education. The VUB, the Sustainable Education Point (Duurzaam Educatiepunt) and the other Flemish universities have also developed an online course for teaching staff on ‘Teaching for and about sustainability’. With that learning module, we aim to further support professionalisation with regard to sustainability in education . The course gives our teaching staff and education teams a basis and raises the quality of our sustainable education. And we motivate our teaching staff to introduce sustainability into their own classes. We actively encourage lifelong learning about sustainability by offering a variety of formats such as micro-credentials, masterclasses and post graduates.

Sustainable research and valorisation We wish to elevate our research into sustainability challenges to a higher level. And we aim to fully deploy the results of our research for the benefit of our society, to improve it and make it more resilient. In order to achieve our goals, we are implementing concrete actions: encouraging freedom of research and futureoriented research, focussing on specific sustainability research that contributes to the achievement of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), supporting interdisciplinary and cross-discipline research groups and using our campuses and the city of Brussels as living labs.

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Partnerships and commitment A sustainable university is created from within its community. By bringing together students, staff and other interested parties and giving them a voice, we accelerate and enrich our process of sustainable change. We encourage collaboration both inside the university and with external partners and adhere to the Sustainability Action Plan throughout our organisation’s operations. Working together for a sustainable world We encourage participation, both with a view to acquiring knowledge and to generate enthusiasm for sustainable development in the VUB community. By way of such projects as DWHJN (The World Needs You), students and researchers put their weight behind creating a better environment, equal rights, improved living conditions, freedom of expression... DWHJN organises several think tanks entitled ‘Atelier Planet’ on the future of the VUB and of our planet. Measurable and dynamic sustainability research The VUB’s best scientists are searching at local and international levels for social and technical responses to challenges in ecological and other systems. Climate change, for example, loss of biodiversity, pollution, exhaustion of aid sources, consumption and liveable cities. Our research provides us with valuable knowledge, expertise and tools with which to make both the planet and our society more sustainable and more resilient. We are deploying our campuses as reallife laboratories for engaged research and education, making our campuses immediately more sustainable. For example, we are setting up several living labs on the

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theme of ‘sustainable renovation of post-war heritage’ and ‘biodiversity and climate adaptation’. There are a great many researchers and research groups at the VUB working on aspects and sub-aspects of sustainability. By stimulating collaboration, we valorise that expertise and find solutions to systemic issues. We tear down the partitions between the various research domains, accelerating the sustainability transition with an inter- and transdisciplinary approach to research. We facilitate interdisciplinary research with a focus on the SDGs by mapping it and bringing the researchers involved, from their different disciplines, in contact with each other.

In the Green Impact Project, students and staff commit to a more sustainable professional group, department or faculty. The GreenTeam, an alternating team of students that is part of a larger European network - The Green Office Movement - expands those operations. We can only fully anchor our sustainability policy in our operations if we all pull together. The academic coordinator for sustainability, the Sustainability core group and the GreenTeam facilitate that anchoring and create connections between the initiatives of staff and students and the policy. In order to accelerate the transition to sustainable university, we collaborate actively with a variety of external partners. They include local authorities - such as the Brussels Capital Region

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and the municipalities - fellow universities, civil society and other organisations and the private sector. The various teams share their knowledge and exchange best practices. Monitoring and communicating We monitor our policy, so we also monitor the Sustainability Action Plan. Based on concrete indicators, such as our carbon footprint, we monitor the initiatives of the plan and make adjustments where necessary. And we strive to meet external standards of quality, for example by adhering structurally to the Sustainability Action Plan throughout our organisation’s operations.

Hybrid working is one of the most effective measures for drastically lowering emissions by the VUB and keeping the life-work balance healthy. We are also reducing the impact of international trips, for example by holding meetings more often online, taking the train instead of a plane and compensating for the CO2 emissions from unavoidable plane journeys. Green and energy efficient Renovating VUB campuses and buildings towards state-of-the-art infrastructure is a huge challenge, but

not one we’re avoiding. Not only that, but we are aiming to do that as integrally and sustainably as possible, so as to reduce the climate impact of our energy consumption for heating and electricity and to become as independent as possible from fossil sources. We are taking energy-saving measures and stepping up our own generation of renewable energy, researching the potential of a geothermal exchange system and carrying out simulations with ‘digital twins’ of our buildings to further optimise their energy management.

Sustainable and climate-friendly business operations We calculate our carbon footprint, which is the total of all our greenhouse gas emissions, every two years. We aim to reduce our university’s total CO2-eq emissions year after year with our new climate strategy, committing to achieving science-based targets. Those are scientifically backed CO2-eq reduction goals at organisational level aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5°C. It’s our way of actually and measurably contributing as a university to the Paris Climate Agreement. The biggest challenges: mobility and energy consumption The major part of our carbon footprint is caused by passenger transport. We’re taking on the challenge, with our Mobility Strategy 2030 and our business travel policy, Travel ABC. We are working on creating accessible campuses, with safe traffic, electric mobility, sustainable alternatives for cars and fewer movements.

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We have a targeted blue-green adaptation plan with which to prepare our campuses for extreme weather conditions - a consequence of climate change - and raise their ecological value. We’re removing paving where possible and adapting planting in order to temper the heat-island effect. Sustainable in every area Sustainability is quietly making its presence felt in every aspect of our policy. For some time now, our largest student restaurant has been the place to be for sustainable food. More than 20% of the customers choose vegetarian or vegan and all take-away is waste-free. We are encouraging all campus users and partners to warm to the idea of sustainable food. We are aware of our purchasing power as a university and therefore as many of our purchases as possible are ecological, climate-conscious and socially responsible. At the same time, we are working on turning the disposable culture into a zero waste culture: a complex system challenge which we are committed to taking on. We are also systematically expanding the selective collection of materials at our campuses. By managing our investment portfolios sustainably, we are supporting the transition to a low-carbon society. We are reducing investments in fossil fuels, investing in sustainable businesses that correspond with VUB values and replacing investments in companies that are harmful to people and planet with sustainable, fossil-free alternatives.

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ACT ION PL A N2 P L A N N I N G AC T I O N S F O R A B E T T E R WO R L D

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How did the Equality Action Plan come about?

Centre for women's studies, later RHEA Expertise centre for Gender, Diversity and Intersectionality

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The diversity plan 2005-2006

1987

2005

Curriculum scan: diversity in the curriculum

The Equality Action Plan 2019-2021

2014

Vision Text and Code of Conduct: Diversity and Equality

2018

2019 2020

The Equality Action Plan 2021-2024

Lecture serie on racism with VUB-fellow Dalilla Hermans

The diversity label from Brussels Capital Region

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Inter-university Master in Gender and Diversity is developed

The transversal policy axis ‘equality’ in the General Strategic Plan 2030

Job student policy and PhD writing grant offer students opportunities

2021

The Gender Action Plan 2014-2016

e strive to operate a clear and progressive equality and inclusion policy that is propagated by the entire VUB community. The Equality Action Plan 2021-2024 builds on our previous action plans and is the concrete development of the transversal policy axis ‘equality’ as found in the VUB’s General Strategic Plan. In addition, we turned for input to our internal stakeholders such as the vice-rectorates, departments and faculties and to the various Equality Ateliers. We also talked to students. The scope of our equality policy was expanded along the way by the gender distribution in our staff with a migration background, LGBTQIA+ and disabilities in students and staff. Participation is crucial to shaping our policy. Co-creation and dialogue ensure an anchoring of this transversal theme throughout the VUB in the long term. To follow up on the policy and put it into practice, we appointed an academic coordinator who, together with the Equality Team, provides advice and acts as the catalyst for the equality policy.

2022 Bias training in all faculties

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OUR GOALS We strive for equality for and inclusion of every student and staff member, while respecting their unique differences. Discrimination, disadvantaging and transgressive behaviour are not tolerated. That inclusive approach makes our education and research more valuable and more socially relevant. The future is inclusive.

Karen Celis, academic coordinator for equality

“We want to continue working on diverse and inclusive curricula, creating opportunities for excelling students and staff, to collect and distribute knowledge about disadvantage and inequality and turn the university into a place for study and work where everyone feels represented and respected and able to flourish. The inclusive university is the university of the future.”

We summarise the ambitions of our Equality Action Plan in 6 strategic goals:

> We develop a bias-proof recruitment policy and strive for equal career opportunities, with a focus on a healthy work-life balance. > Our classrooms and curricula offer room for diversity, anti-racism and decolonisation. We look closely at themes and voices that are now missing. > We support students from under-represented groups on their journey to the academic world and the employment market. > We work on creating inclusive campuses with an accessible work and learning environment, where everyone is treated with respect. > We build on our community and on participation within the VUB. We collaborate with external partners on the VUB equality policy and on the themes of equality, equivalence and inclusion. > To measure is to know. We monitor multiple diversity parameters and further expand that monitoring.

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IN PRACTICE Inclusive education The Equality Team and the academic coordinator are getting our university ready for the future by putting culture changes in motion. In order to achieve our inclusion goals, we translate them into practice-oriented actions in which the entire VUB community will be involved. Our strategic actions for more equality are:

> inclusive education > research into equality and inclusion

> community and engagement > inclusive campuses and opportunities for all

> an inclusive personnel policy

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Decolonisation is a consideration in many educational institutes. The Western, white and Eurocentric knowledge that is often central in education leads to distorted and one-sided interpretations of the world around us. Moreover, many students find themselves unable to identify with the subject matter because of that. By diversifying the content of our subjects, we hope our students will take away a broader range of insights. The male, heteronormative perspective is also still standard in many places. There is a shortage of female, BAME and LGBTQIA+ insights at all Belgian universities, including the VUB. That negatively affects the commitment, performance and well-being of many students. That’s another thing we want to change. Learning about equality We want to have a broad enough range of subjects revolving around equality and inclusion in order to convey ideas on diversity and inclusion to as many students as possible. At present, students can already take the ‘Gender and Diversity’, ‘Gender and Islam’ and ‘Gender, Diversity and Politics’ courses and in 2014, we jointly set up the inter-university Master in ‘Gender and Diversity’. In addition, we organised such events as a successful series of lectures on anti-racism and decolonisation with Dalilla Hermans, in 2019. And in academic year 2021-2022, the interdisciplinary elective subject ‘Redelijk Eigenzinnig’ (reasonably unconventional) revolved around racism.

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Diversity in the curriculum and teaching practice In 2019, our Equality Team first started work with a curriculum scan. Six study programmes enthusiastically took the curriculum scan. The Equality Team analysed the course material and talked to our teaching staff and students. They translated the results of the scan into an accessible roadmap with a central thread and tips and tricks for teaching staff on how to get more diversity into their lessons themselves, and put it into teaching practice. For example, we offer our teaching staff and education teams support in switching to inclusive and future-proof education.

Research into equality and inclusion We want to tackle inequality not only at the individual level but are looking to see what structural effect it has and which system changes are needed in society. Using interdisciplinary and intersectional research, we expose the structural patterns of disadvantage and privilege and indicate which changes are necessary in order to achieve a fair and inclusive world. Various research groups at the VUB are working on diversity, equality and inclusion. For example, RHEA expertise centre is focusing on such themes as intersectionality: the importance of gender imbalances in relation to structural disadvantage, such as ethnicity, sexuality, religion, class, age and disability. The BIRMM (Brussels Interdisciplinary Research centre for Migration and Minorities) brings together more than 100 VUB researchers studying such themes as migration, minorities and diversity. And the Hannah Arendt Institute, set up by the VUB, University of Antwerp and the city of Mechelen, hopes to connect the scientific knowledge about diversity, urbanism and

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citizenship with the insights and experiences of policy makers, organisations and citizens. We will continue our commitment to the further integration of gender and diversity in the research at our university.

Community and engagement We encourage students, staff and other parties involved to actively commit to equality and inclusiveness on and around the campus. The diversity in Brussels and on our campuses offers an array of ways of doing that, from student jobs and internships to the projects of our The World Needs You campaign (De Wereld heeft Je Nodig).

themes such as equality, inclusion, racism and discrimination. It’s our desire to change the university from the inside out. We are further expanding the VUB Equality Network so that we can increase participation by students and staff and use the network as an instrument in policy developments. Partners A collective effort is needed if we are to make our society genuinely equal and inclusive. So we are committed to co-creation and are collaborating with

VUBuddy VUBuddy is just one of that campaign’s projects. An experienced VUB student shows new students from the same discipline the ropes in and around the university. We put them in touch with each other with a view to creating a connected university where everyone can find their place. We intend to modify the project in order to reach a diverse group of students, making the project more inclusive. VUB Equality Network We make our commitment tangible through, for example, the VUB Equality Network. It offers the various partners and actors the chance to pool their expertise and develop actions on inclusion and equality. We distribute a newsletter to highlight all the actions and to keep the network up to date with opportunities, interesting information and upcoming events. At the same time, the VUB Equality Network is a safe place where students, staff and external parties can find each other, exchange experiences and discuss

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numerous internal and external partners. The VUB is a part of Eutopia, for example, a partnership of 10 European universities that are working together on the university of the future. Eutopia has as its objective to draft future-proof education that will tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. The organisation builds knowledge and learning communities across the borders of countries, universities, disciplines and cultures. Closer to home, we work in particular with numerous student organisations and initiatives such as WeDecolonizeVUB, one of the goals of which is creating a safe, or safer, space for students who experience racism.

Inclusive campuses and opportunities for all The VUB campuses are welcoming places where discrimination, disadvantage and transgressive behaviour are not tolerated. The VUB strives to be an agent of change, offering opportunities, correcting inequalities and in doing so, steering new generations towards increased equality and appreciation of diversity. Inclusive campuses We tackle structural transgressive behaviour, sexism and racism by, for example, optimising our hotline and the VUB code of conduct. We use bystander training for a variety of target groups to explain what you should do if you witness transgressive behaviour. And we intend to commit more strongly to practice-oriented training courses for staff on anti-sexism, anti-racism and intercultural communication. In addition, we are developing a step-by-step plan for accessible, inclusive and trans-friendly campus infrastructure, administration and communication.

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Equal opportunities We support students from under-represented groups not only in gaining their diplomas but also in their journey towards a career in the academic world or in the employment market. We want to make the doctoral process as inclusive and diverse as possible. For example, students with academic ambitions, strong research skills and a migration background, or a difficult family or financial situation can apply for a PhD writing grant of 30 days to help them work out their doctoral proposal.

out a salary gap analysis every 2 years. We strive for between 40 and 60% female self-employed academic staff in each faculty. And in the future, we would like to monitor more diversity indicators, such as migration background.

We also look closely at student jobs. One in three students at the VUB has a migration background, 4% has a recognised disability and almost a quarter are international students. More than other students, those three groups often benefit more from a student job, partly because they’re more likely to experience discrimination in the employment market. For that reason, we aim to allocate at least half of our student jobs to students from those under-represented groups.

An inclusive personnel policy Our recruitment policy must be objective and inclusive. So we organise bias training courses to teach avoidance of prejudices and to spread and anchor inclusive recruitment and promotion practices throughout the whole university. We developed training courses for professional recruitment procedures, with a checklist and practical examples to teach recognition of prejudices. In order to follow up on the effectiveness of our actions and training courses, we monitor multiple diversity indicators. The gender balance in both staff and the central administration bodies is monitored and we carry

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How did the Well-being Framework come about?

Transversal policy axis ‘well-being’ in the General Strategic Plan 2030

Hotline for transgressive behaviour

2016

2018

First edition weKONEKT Well-being Tables for students

The Well-being Framework 2021-2024

2021 New evaluation and promotion policy

Action Plan We(ll)-being Students

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2022

Well-being survey for staff, in the pipeline 3 work groups set up: wellbeing of students, wellbeing of staff and wellbeing as research focus

Improved approach to transgressive behaviour

W

e are taking a great many initiatives aimed at making studying, living and working on our campuses as pleasant as possible and at safeguarding the well-being of our students and staff - also in difficult times, such as during the Covid lockdowns and the ensuing aftermath. We developed the Well-being Framework as a way of connecting all those fragmented initiatives with each other and enabling cross-pollination. Our policy on well-being came about on the basis of a dialogue with our stakeholders, such as the central departments, vice-rectorates and faculties and a screening of their policies plans. In that sense, the Well-being Framework covers the different concrete personnel and well-being-related points for action in the various policy plans and safeguards the coherence and integration of the specific policy lines. Our well-being policy can only succeed if students and staff from a number of different departments get behind it. And our open and participatory attitude is crucial; we continue the dialogue with the target groups involved as much as possible. The academic coordinator ensures there is a bridge between the top-down policy and the bottom-up initiatives and between the various VUB departments and individuals that are committed to the well-being of our students and staff and have the legal authority to do so.

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OUR GOALS The well-being of our students and staff is a priority. We would like to see our university become a place of reference in the area of wellfare, and well-being firmly embedded in our operations. The COVID-19 crisis only reinforced that intention. We take into account the 7 areas of wellbeing: safety at work, health, psychosocial aspects, ergonomics, hygiene at work, a pleasant work environment and internal living environment. We want to make our university a place where everyone - students, researchers, staff -

Valéry-Ann Jacobs, academic coordinator for well-being

“We are becoming more and more aware of the importance of well-being at our university. However, we are only at the very beginning of a cultural change. By research into this theme and education about the results, we strive together towards a university where we also grow as people; a safe environment where we can develop into healthy world citizens who feel secure in themselves.”

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feels at ease. To that end, it is important that we make sure that everybody knows where to go to for help and support. We strive to support our well-being policy with data so that we can measure our impact. We are firmly committed to research and to building a teaching and self-teaching network around well-being. We summarise the ambitions of the Well-being Framework in 5 goals:

> We are working on a policy framework that is integrated into the existing structures, setting up 3 bodies around well-being that will work out the policy and take initiative: a work group for student well-being, one for staff that will operate together with the Committee for Prevention and Protection at Work and a network of researchers. The academic coordinator for well-being will supervise and coordinate the operations. > We are expanding a knowledge platform around well-being with scientifically substantiated advice on well-being accessible to everyone looking to improve their well-being. In addition, we are raising awareness of aspects of well-being and transgressive behaviour. > We are working on a data-driven well-being policy, measuring aspects surrounding well-being, for example, and communicating about that to the outside world. > We are committed to interdisciplinary research into well-being and we assess on a regular basis which aspects we want to research in more detail. > We take structural measures and further expand the range of care and support available to students and staff, apply a transparent and high-performing HR policy and ensure a more individualised career path for our staff.

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IN PRACTICE We take the well-being of our students and staff seriously. We expect every member of our community to convey our well-being policy. In order to achieve our goals with regard to well-being, we are making work of the following strategic actions:

> research and education about well-being

> knowledge platform and

Research and education about well-being Many research projects at the VUB are linked to well-being. It is a strongly interdisciplinary theme that is studied from within several domains, including the social, medical and engineering sciences. We aim to further expand our research into well-being in order to improve the well-being of the VUB community and by extension, all of society and to achieve a maximum synergy between research and policy. Interdisciplinary research will play a major role in that.

Increasing attention is being paid to both physical and mental well-being in the various study programmes at the VUB. As a university, we want to open up discussion about those topics, to break taboos and enter into dialogue on well-being. To that end, we are developing study programme components that contribute to ‘well-being literacy’ in our students. They can then convey their knowledge about well-being at our university and their future workplace.

awareness of well-being themes

> bottom-up initiatives around well-being

> a warm campus and working environment

> help and compassion

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As a scientific institution, we find it very important that our well-being policy is data driven. We measure aspects of well-being in our students, doctoral students and staff by way of periodic surveys and monitor the progress. We share the results with the VUB community and use them as a guideline for our well-being policy.

Knowledge platform and awareness of well-being themes As an educational institute, we have at our disposal a wealth of knowledge about well-being and health themes. We pool that expertise and make it available to our students, staff and anyone else who needs it. By way of the Well-being knowledge platform, we keep everyone up to date with the latest developments on well-being at the VUB. The platform collects insights and useful tips from research projects and other information. Important topics covered include healthy

nutrition, sleeping well, a healthy place to work or study, a healthy living environment, sports and exercise, mental relaxation, help in the case of addiction, dealing with loss or trauma, dealing with stress or burnout, time management and work-life balance. Using the knowledge platform and open communication, we create awareness of aspects of well-being and transgressive behaviour. And through our The World Needs You campaign and Ateliers, we aim to make everyone aware of the social relevance of well-being.

Bottom-up initiatives around well-being Students or staff members who have themselves started up a project or who wish to organise an event, are warmly welcomed. Our well-being policy can only succeed if staff from a number of different departments get behind it. We offer support in the implementation of valuable initiatives and give them a boost. Students and staff members who wish to join in are very welcome. We are also keen to set up research projects with external partners, research institutes, companies and individual researchers. Interdisciplinary collaboration forms the basis for the bottom-up implementation of our well-being policy. One nice example of that is the Well-being Tables that took place in the context of weKONEKT.brussels. Diverse groups of students join a table and discuss themes such as stress, perfectionism, racism and discrimination and dealing creatively with well-being. They are given the chance to share their experiences, under the supervision of VUB university psychologists. And they are also given concrete tips and tricks.

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A warm campus and working environment

Help and compassion

We aim to create a warm learning and working environment where everyone feels safe and at ease. We are working out structural measures with regard to transgressive behaviour and are developing a ‘boundary-wise’ policy on sexually transgressive behaviour within the student community. We are optimising the functioning of our hotline so we can take action faster on reports of sexist or racist behaviour and all forms of bullying and violence and also looking critically at our procedures, communication and social skills. Further, we are working on creating safe campuses, improving the well-being of the VUB community.

The way you feel has an impact on your life, your studies and your work. We offer help with such themes as stress, burnout, health, addictions and trauma to both students and staff. We developed a plan of action for students with which to expand and optimise the range of care and support we offer in primary prevention and secondary social assistance. We are planning a well-being survey in order to obtain insight into the current needs of our staff. Moreover, we are working on transparency and clarity about where to go for help with

a particular need. This is how we hope to improve the physical and mental well-being of our VUB community. On 19 November 2019, the VUB was the first university in Europe to sign a declaration of intent to become a compassionate university. We want to make everyone in our community aware of the importance of support and compassion in situations of serious illness, death, loss or care.

We are also developing a transparent and highperforming HR policy with the aim of improving the well-being of our staff and promoting a more individualised career path by deploying our staff based on their preferences and competences, where possible. We are looking at the work-life balance and implementing a new evaluation and promotion policy for the academic staff.

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