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First UM-wide bachelor’s programme being created

MAASTRICHT. If all goes as planned, the first real university-wide bachelor's programme will open its doors in September 2019. It is called Global Studies and is developed and produced by all of Maastricht University’s six faculties. The plan is about to be put before the University Council, after which the education minister will also have to give the go-ahead. 

The Global Studies (GS) programme encompasses five main themes, which will be dealt with during the course of the three-year bachelor’s. The themes are Environment and Sustainability, Migration and Citizenship, Tolerance and Beliefs, Global Justice, and lastly 21st Century Learning.

All these themes, as broad as they are, will be approached from all possible angles. The plan emphasises the interdisciplinary character of the programme, which is something different than putting subjects alongside one another. This is a curriculum that has been developed from the beginning jointly by jurists, administration experts, (development) economists, psychologists, geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, physicians, health scientists, education experts, historians and technologists. Depending on the theme, one field will play a greater role than the other.

What will this approach look like in practice? The plan describes a case study that comes under the environmental theme (environmental sustainability). Point of departure is that the seas surrounding Africa are being depleted of fish by technologically superior fishing boats from Asia and Europe. There is an international law that prohibits this, but African countries do not have the means to enforce this. As a result, thousands of local fishermen lose their livelihoods and migrate to Europe. In Eastern Africa, others seek their income in piracy, something that in turn leads to changing shipping routes.

Students who concentrate on this will see connections between worldwide developments and their local consequences (or vice versa) and discover how they need disciplines such as economics, politics, law and others in order to understand the situation. They will also see that solutions can only be found by approaching the matter from different angles.

And that is exactly the whole idea of this programme, write the project authors, under the leadership of professor Valentina Mazzucato from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS). The graduates will be trained to become ‘mediators’ between people who do approach problems from their own field: after all, the academic disciplines won't disappear.

There are plenty of options for subsequent master’s programmes, both within the UM and at eight other Dutch universities. The aim is to create an international student population, consisting of Dutch, European and “above-average” non-European students.

This is linked to the ‘global’ perspective, a conscious effort to recruit students but also lecturers from the ‘Global South’, which includes Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia.

The initiators don't believe that this bachelor’s programme will ‘cannibalise’ existing programmes by redirecting student influxes: they expect to tap into a new audience. Their aim is to grow from 50 to 120 new students over a period of five years.

In spite of likenesses with Liberal Arts programmes such as University College, a major difference is the permanent programme: all students will have the same curriculum, whereas UCM offers great individual freedom.

There are still some organisational hurdles to take. A programme should officially come under a faculty, so that a programme committee and faculty council can play their roles. The most obvious choice - the faculty of Humanities and Sciences (FHS), which was traditionally the breeding ground for new initiatives - is going through uncertain times at the moment. The faculty is to going to be split up, as vice dean Mathieu Segers recently announced, but exactly how that will happen, is not yet clear. 

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