Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
MAASTRICHT. “You will see, we are about to go live and five minutes later the shit storm will break loose.” It won’t be nice, all that criticism, but “they care”. Bernadette Jansma addresses the audience in Brasserie Tapijn on Wednesday morning, 18 May, just before Maastricht University’s new website is launched. According to Jansma, dean of the Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences and chairperson of the UM web project steering committee, it takes courage to press on in an uncertain and dynamic IT environment. She is referring to a story about her uncle. “I grew up on the border of West and East Germany. An uncle, from the former DDR, told us one day that he wanted to build a house. How are you going to do that, we wanted to know. There had been no cement for five years and you had to go on a waiting list for bricks. My uncle said: ‘I don’t care. I am going to build.’ The house was erected and is still standing.”
With the releasing of dozens of balloons, the UM has been set free from the old cumbersome monster, which was a source of criticism, in particular in the last few years. Visitors went astray more than once in the gruel of information.
The new site. What has not changed? The URL, the bilingualism and the corporate style (blue with Maastricht University’s logo). What is different after two years of hard work? The site is ‘leaner’ with some four thousand instead of 55 thousand pages. And not unimportantly, it is visitor-driven. “Nobody goes to our website just for fun, there is always a reason, and for a prospective student the reason is different than for an alumnus or benefactor,” says project leader Manon Gorissen.
A remarkable aspect is the elaborate visual material, the slow news on the homepage and separate columns for education, research, news, and events and even for Life@UM (sports, work, housing). Support has also been given a prominent place, with a monthly top 5 of questions from students and employees. Gorissen is also proud of the way education, the members of staff and research have been woven together. If you go to a bachelor’s study programme, you get an overview of all subjects. At a glance, you see who is the block co-ordinator, while another click will reveal all personnel information and publications. “Together with the library, we have started the PURE project, which lists researchers’ publications. We have managed to link that to the website.”
Every study programme provides “honest” information, Gorissen emphasises. The Elsevier rankings are visible, and with Studiekeuze 123 as a source we are showing information such as student satisfaction rates, the number of first-year students, and the percentage of first-years who reach the second year after one year. Moreover, videos show students telling what they think about their study programme and what could possibly be better. “Those critical notes are part of it all. We don’t want a PR pitch.”