Europe

Laurent Simons: Belgian child prodigy drops out of university

Laurent Simons in University of Eindhoven's electrical engineering department Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The university told Laurent Simons' parents that he wouldn't be able to graduate before his 10th birthday

A Belgian child prodigy who had hoped to graduate from university in the Netherlands this month has dropped out.

The parents of Laurent Simons, nine, wanted him to graduate before his birthday on 26 December so he could be the first university graduate under 10.

But Eindhoven University told them there were still too many exams Laurent needed to take before then.

His parents refused an offer of a mid-2020 graduation date, and immediately removed him from the course.

Laurent was supposed to complete the three-year electrical engineering degree in just 10 months so he could meet his birthday deadline.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Laurent, pictured with his parents Lydia and Alexander, needed to complete the three-year degree course in just 10 months

Alexander Simons, Laurent's father, told Dutch media the university had criticised him for frequently courting media coverage of his son.

"If a child can play football well, we all think the media attention is great. My son has a different talent. Why should he not be proud of that?" he told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant.

Laurent Simons' Instagram account also posted a screenshot of an email the university had sent them last month about potential December graduation dates, with a caption saying: "Liar liar pants on fire!!!"

In a statement, Eindhoven's University of Technology said it would not be feasible for Laurent to complete the course before turning 10, while also developing "insight, creativity and critical analysis". If he were to rush the course, the statement said, his academic development would suffer.

The university also cautioned against placing "excessive pressure on this nine-year-old student" who, it said, had "unprecedented talent".

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