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“Especially the process is important for students”

Student Forum Maastricht 2018

How can we improve relations between Eastern and Western Europe? Also, how can we prevent extremism and radicalisation in the European Union? These were two of the four topics that were discussed at the new UM campus in Brussels last week during the Student Forum Maastricht (SFM), a recurrent annual symposium where students brainstorm.

At the end of the conference, explains Theresa Mainka, head of PR & Communication and third-year student of European Studies, each team presents a policy proposal that is subsequently sent to the European Commission. The results? Rapid and thorough integration is important for the prevention of radicalisation and extremism. This group suggested an EU-wide Internet forum that would make it easier for European municipalities to apply for subsidies for events aimed at improving integration. The team believes that the key to better relations between East and West lies in education. A broader Erasmus programme and an online environment in which European universities – from the East and the West – share information with each other and with businesses, would be good steps in the right direction. The other two teams thought about digital skills and rewards for pharmaceutical innovation in the EU.

Students from all over the world applied for a place on one of the four teams. “There are ten places on each team and we had about a hundred applications,” says Mainka. In proper PBL style, all participants received a reader with literature about their subject beforehand, so that they were able to prepare themselves properly. All teams were assisted by one or two experts from the field and a member of the European Commission. “Even Cristina Avornic, a high-ranking diplomat from Moldova, was present for a day,” says Mainka.

“It's not so much the final policy proposal, but the process that is important for the participants,” Mainka explains. “In five days, they learn how to write a policy proposal, experience the difference between what you learn at university and what is possible in practice, and make important contacts.”

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