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Four weddings and a funeral

Four weddings and a funeral

Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts

Opening 2011-2012 academic year

Confident about its own capabilities, firmly rooted in the province of Limburg, international (but with 50 per cent Dutch students), closely co-operating with institutes and businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Professor Martin Paul, President of the Executive Board, outlined the future of ‘his’ Maastricht University in a glowing speech – not devoid of humour – during the opening of the academic year last Monday.

“These days, you sometimes get the feeling that academy is a dirty word and refers to money-wasting nerds who pursue their private hobbies,” said Martin Paul at the beginning of his speech, entitled The future of Maastricht University: Four weddings and a funeral. He believes that nothing is farther from the truth: it is a place for debate, where knowledge is exchanged. It has not placed itself outside society, but right in the middle. He continued by hammering home the great importance of relations (the ‘weddings’), co-operation and networking. Between faculties and MUMC+, with other institutions, organisations and businesses. “A faculty or university is not broad enough to solve today’s great themes.” He prefers the concept of ‘global network university’: working together with different partners in various areas. Within the UM, in the region, on a national or international level.

“We are a Dutch university with a truly international profile.” And we will continue to be just that, Paul said. With these words, he referred to the recent discussion about why Dutch taxpayers should pay towards the education of foreign students. “Certainly, education costs money, but for every euro invested, you get four in return.” Besides the number of foreign students in the Netherlands is a lot lower than, for example, in Belgium, Germany or Great Britain.

No matter how international the UM is, it will remain firmly rooted in the province of Limburg and the city of Maastricht. “We do not just educate the children of Limburg, but we are also an important factor in the economic stability with a total of 9000 jobs for UM and university hospital together.” Not to mention the rejuvenating contribution that students bring to the atmosphere of the city, he added. “We will further expand our regional role by strengthening our ties with other educational institutes.”

Then there was the ‘funeral’. What could be buried? The innumerable stereotypes that stick to the UM and to Limburg, says Paul. The UM is much more than what some insist on calling a teaching university. “Recent successes with research organisation NWO and the high quality of the master’s programmes, confirmed by Elsevier, prove the contrary.”

At the end of the afternoon, it was time for a little awards ceremony: the 2011 Students’ Award went to medical students Astrid van Boxtel and Marieke Vonk. They are the founders of the Mpower foundation, an organisation dedicated to the improvement of living conditions and health in South Sudan. The Edmond Hustinx prize for young promising scientists went to Dr. Henry Otgaar, a psychologist doing research on the way memory works. The departing governor of the province of Limburg received the Tans medal – the UM’s highest distinction – for his efforts on behalf of the university.

Riki Janssen





Riki Janssen



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