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Summer School experienced a dip because of “transitional phase”

MAASTRICHT. The last Maastricht Summer School had just over half of the number of participants of the 2016 edition. The reason was the new approach: an earlier enrolment date, a minimum number of seven participants, higher fees and stricter language requirements.

The Summer School – a varying range of one-, two-, or three-week courses in the months of July and August – has been running since 2012 as a joint initiative by Maastricht University, Hogeschool Zuyd, and the Maastricht School of Management. Whereas last year, the organisers welcomed about 350 participants, the counter went no further than 160 this summer, says Jorg de Vette, department head of the Center for European Studies & Maastricht Summer School. On the other hand, the new Pre-Academic Training, an introduction to Maastricht University and its education system, attracted 63 prospective foreign Maastricht bachelor’s and master’s students.

De Vette took over the directorship of the Summer School last year. “There wasn't much in the way of archives, little standardisation, and that is part and parcel of the pioneering phase, but after five years, we wanted to have a more professional setup: only one-, two-, or three-week courses with a fixed number of ECTS credits, a fixed number of contact hours, and fixed fees. Previously, the offer was less strict and more diffuse. We felt that it wasn't beneficial for the reputation or the interested parties.”
The enrolment deadline has also been pushed forward to 1 June. “In the past, students could enrol until the courses actually started. But this causes a lot of organisational problems.” In addition, there must be at least seven people participating in each course.

De Vette: “What didn't help either, was the fact that we could only start negotiating with lecturers about financial arrangements on 1 November. We also included the courses in SAP, as happens with all UM study programmes. The link between SAP and the new UM website didn't work. Eventually, all course descriptions ended up on the website as PDF files, but by then it was already the beginning of March.”

Now that the “transitional phase” has passed, De Vette is hoping that the new selection will be online as early as next November and that this will result in more favourable enrolment numbers for 2018.

One course that was cancelled because of a lack of enrolments, was Power, Media and Democracy, by philosopher René Gabriëls, a regular presence since the Summer School started. A pity, he says, but the pleasure he gets from working at the Summer School hasn't suffered. “It is great because you have much more freedom than in the regular education programmes. Nobody interferes with your course.” His second subject, Global Justice, did take place. Leonhardt van Efferink also had to cancel four of his six subjects because of lack of interest - last year, he had 89 students, this year 21. Starting off as a guest speaker at the School of Business and Economics, Van Efferink later became a ‘temporary’ lecturer and tutor of Country Risk Analysis.

He also regards 2017 as a transitional phase, in which he had to adapt in terms of duration and number of contact hours. “I first had about 25 hours, compared to 18 now. But in the end, it didn't work out too bad. I give my students the Wednesday off, so they can work on their own assignments. The rest of the time is left for group processes.”

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