Nine-year-old Belgian prodigy drops out of university

2019-12-10 22:02
Lecture theatre. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Lecture theatre. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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A nine-year-old Belgian boy who was due to graduate in electrical engineering has dropped out of his Dutch university due to a dispute over the end date of his degree, his father said on Tuesday.

Young prodigy Laurent Simons hit the headlines worldwide when it emerged he was on course to receive his degree from the Eindhoven University of Technology in December and become one of the world's youngest graduates.

But his father Alexander told AFP he had now quit because the university wanted to delay his degree until next year, while insisting his son now had new plans.

"Today he already got two offers" from foreign universities, Alexander Simons said. "We have good times ahead of us."

The university said in a statement that it had suggested a timetable that would have allowed him to finish in mid-2020, which would have been "in any case a very fast timetable."

"His parents decided not to accept this plan and to end his studies here. We regret that," it said.

"His father repeatedly said he wanted his son to get his degree at the age of nine", which would have meant Laurent had to complete a three-year course in the space of just 10 months, the university said.

"Laurent is an unprecedently talented boy whose way of working is exceptional. Nevertheless, the university did not believe that this end date was feasible given the number of exams Laurent had to pass before his 10th birthday on December 26."

Born to a Belgian father and Dutch mother, Laurent was for the early part of his life raised by his grandparents in the Belgian coastal resort of Ostend.

Starting school at four, he completed primary in a year and a half. It has taken him just five years to go through primary and secondary school and university.

Laurent told AFP in November that he eventually wanted to "make artificial organs to prolong life" - while adding that his hobbies also included TV and his pet dog.

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