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“Turn the UM into a European university”

Create a few European universities, financed with EU money. Maastricht University could be one of them. That would put an end to the grumbling about German students getting their diplomas at the expense of the Dutch taxpayer.


This is the view of Tom Van Veen, professor of The Economics of International Education and dean of internationalisation of education at Maastricht University since 1 January 2011. “A new position, my job responsibilities were part of the rector’s overfull portfolio. I want to combine faculty initiatives in the field of internationalisation, create synergy.” The India institute comes under the dean, as does the Maastricht Summer School, which will start in 2012.

Van Veen responds to a comment made by a former key official from the ministry of education, Ferdinand Mertens. The latter called it “absurd” and “socially irresponsible” that universities and schools of higher education recruit students in Germany (three years from now, there will be forty thousand German students in the Netherlands), to come and study here and have the Dutch pay for it. As an example, he quotes the Fontys international campus in Venlo, which offers nine courses in German and actively recruits among German youths. This has nothing to do with internationalisation, says the former inspector-general of education in the Transfer journal. He also refers to Maastricht University, the largest ‘German university’ outside Germany, which is actively recruiting in the United Kingdom after the recent drastic rise of lecture fees there. The institutes sell their policies under the pretext of Europeanising, and those who make any comments on this, are set aside, according to Mertens, as narrow-minded.

“We can no longer allow this development to continue,” Mertens warns. He believes that the only ones to benefit from bringing in EU students, are the institutes themselves. Government pays, thus decreasing the average budget per student.

“I agree that we should not offer courses in German,” says Van Veen. “But Europe wants to promote mobility and has chosen for the free movement of people. Students can go and study wherever they choose, paying the same lecture fees as local students. If you find a good international university, why would you not go there?” Nevertheless, he does not brush off Mertens’ objections altogether. “It is not an absurd point of view. I was speaking with an American guest professor last year, who was amazed that Dutch tax payers were saddled with the study costs of foreign students. We should look for a different concept. We could set up a European settlement fund that would pay out - at a European level - to countries who take more students than they send off.” Another option would be market-based lecture fees for all master’s students. But it would be even better if “there were a few European universities. Financed with EU money. That would be a great opportunity for the UM.”

Van Veen would not have a problem with the UM no longer being allowed to actively recruit abroad. “I do not expect the influx of students to decrease. We get so much positive publicity through the press, social media, rankings, accreditations, and word-of-mouth advertising.” Adding: “Our foreign students do not just cost us money, they also give us something. It is good to come in contact with other nationalities in the tutorial groups. It creates understanding, broadens your view, all of which is important for Europe.”


Riki Janssen/HOP



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