Belgian child prodigy drops out of Dutch university at the age of 9

Vincent Wood
Der Spiegel

A nine-year-old’s parents have terminated his studies at the University of Eindhoven after educators said he would be unable to finish his degree quickly enough to become the world’s youngest graduate.

Laurent Simons had been on track to finish his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering by the end of the year, making him the first person to graduate from university under the age of ten.

However he has since been removed from the course after he and his parents were told his path looked unfeasible – with educators saying there were simply too many tests to take before his birthday on December 26.

A university spokesperson said: “Laurent is an exceptionally gifted boy, who is going through his studies at an unprecedented pace”, adding that the establishment had offered had offered "a still phenomenally quick scheme in which he would end his education mid-2020".

But Laurent’s parents instead elected to withdraw their son from his studies – claiming the university had changed his date of graduation after they had decided to send the child somewhere else to complete his PhD.

Describing his son as a “unique project which everyone wants to be a part of” Alexander Simons, Laurent’s father, said: “"Until last week everything was fine, and now suddenly they see a delay of six months".

He added that the family had previously been indifferent to the date of his graduation - but they had taken it up as an issue as they felt the university was intentionally seeking to scupper the child’s chances to graduate at the earlier date.

"It's very peculiar that this all comes right at the time when we were finalising our plans for Laurent's PhD at a different university", Simons senior said.

"There is a lot of interest in Laurent from universities he would be honoured to join... There is so much demand for Laurent, he is a unique project which everybody wants to be a part of,"

The world’s youngest graduate is currently Micheal Kearney, an American who graduated in June 1994 at 10 years and four months of age.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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