MAASTRICHT. For the first time in the history of Maastricht University, fewer than half of the students are from the Netherlands (48.2 per cent). The number of Dutch students coming here for the first time to study, is even lower than that: 35.5 per cent. In particular Dutch bachelor students are less inclined to choose the South Limburg university. A quarter of the newcomers are from Germany, 8 per cent from Belgium and almost 22 per cent is from elsewhere in the European Union. These results come from the final enrolment figures as of 1 December.
The decline of the number of Dutch students at Maastricht University has been a trend for some years now. Last year, half of all students were Dutch, against 52.6 per cent in 2014. The Executive Board’s new Strategic Programme (2017-2021) does not indicate whether this is the right course. It only mentions a “balanced population mix from the region, the Netherlands, Europe, and the rest of the world”. When asked board spokesperson Stephan Hoek said: “Without pinning this down to definite percentages, an important part of our students must be from this country. That is why we are carrying out a targeted recruitment campaign, mainly online, for Dutch grammar school students. We are also focussing on a better match with Dutch secondary school students.” This will be done by visiting schools to make young people aware of the existence of a university in Maastricht. Board President Martin Paul already said a year ago – and still feels the same – after the Socialist Party and the Christian Democrats expressed their concerns about the anglicisation of higher education: “Maybe we need to break away from the classic definition of Dutch versus foreign students.” He suggested that we should distinguish four groups of students: “From the Euroregion within a radius of a hundred kilometres, from the rest of the Netherlands, from Europe and from outside Europe.”
At the moment, there are 0.6 per cent fewer first-year students at the UM than last year. Among first-year bachelor’s students, there is a decrease of 0.2 per cent, among the first-year master’s the figure is 2 per cent.
The Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences experienced the strongest growth in the bachelor’s programmes, mainly due to Biomedical Sciences (from 173 to 327 first-years). The programme has a completely reviewed curriculum since September, is given in English, and no longer has a restricted intake.
During the Bachelor’s Open Day on 12 November, there was a great deal of interest for the English programmes, even among Dutch students, who showed up in huge numbers. This trend is reflected in the latest enrolment figures. The Faculty of Law, for example, with 162 first-year students for Law (against 196 in 2015) compared to 410 European Law School students (up from 349 in 2015). The Faculty of Psychology and Neurosciences started an English bachelor’s programme last academic year, resulting in 42 students starting the Dutch programme and 366 doing the English version.
At the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Dutch bachelor’s programme of Arts and Culture reached an all time low with twenty first-year students. The English version of Arts and Culture welcomed almost one hundred. The bachelor’s programme of European Studies scored the largest growth on the Grote Gracht: 312. One more than in 2015.
Knowledge Engineering and University College Maastricht recently received the title of 'Top study 2017' from the Keuzegids. But UCM has selected fewer first-year students (171) than last year (184). Knowledge Engineering shows considerably less growth, with 65 instead of 92 (2015). UCM emphasises that there is more competition in the Netherlands. Judith Buddenberg, co-ordinator of the dean’s office: "Approximately the same number of students are selected every year, but the number that actually accepts the invitation, fluctuates." For Knowledge Engineering, there is competition from similar types of programmes in Germany (Aachen, Jülich, and Berlin). In addition, almost no German university charges tuition fees. Germans – who would normally have chosen to study in Maastricht – are more likely to stay in their own country now, says Mariëtte Wennekers, FHS co-ordinator of marketing and communication. "German school-leavers get their diplomas at a younger age, which most likely makes them decide to stay closer to home."
Exactly what the situation is in the rest of the Netherlands, is still unclear. VSNU has not yet received the enrolment figures from all universities.