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Integration of foreign students must improve

Integration of foreign students must improve

A project group chaired by the rector feels that something should be done about the increasing segregation of groups of students based on nationality. If only for the reason that it obstructs the functioning of the problem-based learning.

Especially the two largest groups - the Dutch and the Germans - hardly ever mix, or only temporarily in the tutorial groups. Elsewhere, they all go their own way. The explanation is simple, writes the project group in its report ‘Promoting diversity; improving social integration at Maastricht University’, because there are indeed differences. Age differences (the German students are often older), but also differences in mentality and attitudes towards studying. Problem-based learning, however, requires close co-operation from everyone: tension, imbalances, not feeling at home, all have immediate consequences for the education process. This applies even more to foreign students who do not belong to either of the two main groups. The project group reports that the latter feel out of place and alienated more easily, which in turn can lead to loneliness and depression. When Dutch or German is spoken during breaks, people who speak a different language feel left out.

The memo also lists potential measures that could be taken. Each faculty should form a ‘strong’ committee to analyse and tackle their own situation. The memo also argues that there should be a community centre that could serve as a UM meeting place. The project group appeals to the student associations to make a real effort - at last - to bring in foreign students. The Language Centre is called upon to organise more cheap courses in English but also in Dutch. Foreign students find it very important to know the Dutch language, the report says, to be able to move around the city more easily but also because it would look more impressive on a CV.

A politically sensitive subject concerns the recommendation to recruit more realistically and fairly abroad. Many foreign students complain, once the are in Maastricht, that the international university that was promised looks more like a German fortress. But a more realistic picture “should not harm the recruitment effort,” the project group writes, without proposing a way out of this dilemma.


Wammes Bos



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