137 newcomers from Britain
As of early October, 137 new British students had enrolled at Maastricht University. What made them choose Maastricht? Was it the much lower tuition fees in the Netherlands, or is there more to it? Observant interviewed three British newcomers.
The arrival of large groups of British students in Maastricht, Leiden, Groningen and Rotterdam in particular was big news in August and September, both on Dutch television and in the papers. Still, the exact number expected in Maastricht remained unclear for some time – while more than 500 students registered at the university, not all of them actually enrolled. But as at the start of October, we now know that 137 new students (97 bachelor’s students, the rest master’s students) from the UK are officially enrolled at Maastricht University. The main reason behind this influx, the Dutch media assumed, was the much lower tuition fees. In December 2010, the British House of Commons voted to raise tuition fees from £3300 to a maximum of £9000. In the Netherlands, the fees for this academic year amount to €1713.
“The lower tuition fees weren’t the main reason I came to the Netherlands”, says John Still, a master’s student in Media Culture from Liverpool. “But they were definitely part of it. Forty percent of my decision was about money. I also chose Maastricht for a bit of adventure. I wanted to leave England for a while to experience a different culture. And, last but not least, the course. I’ve been out of education for the past five years. After my bachelor’s in popular music, media and cultural studies in Liverpool, I wanted to work out what to study next and went looking for a job. Last summer I read in The Guardian about studying in Holland; that you teach in English here. I went to the Maastricht University website, to Arts and Social Sciences, and saw the course that’s exactly up my street: Media Culture.” He’s happy with his choice. “The course is really good. It makes me feel humble as an English person who doesn’t speak another language to sit in a group with people from all over the world speaking about different topics in English.”
“In the beginning it was all about the fees”, remembers Daniel Hart, a first-year student of European Studies from London. “I’d seen the prices in America and Australia and thought studying abroad would be very expensive. But then I saw the lower prices in Europe. My career adviser at school mentioned Maastricht. I came here for a visit and fell in love with the city – it was during the World Cup and everybody was going crazy. I like the culture here with all the bars and the traditional streets. It stills feels as if I’m on holiday when I walk through the city centre. I’m glad I visited an Open Day; it gives you the chance to see and feel how it really is, talk to people. That influenced my decision. Just visiting the UM website wasn’t enough for me.”
David Darler, master’s student of Globalisation and Development, is not a typical British student, he says. “I lived in Germany for the past eight years, near Mönchengladbach, not far from Maastricht. My girlfriend – she also studies in Maastricht – and I didn’t want to go back to the UK, but rather to stay in the area. We like it here. First we thought we’d stay in Germany and drive to Maastricht every day. But that didn’t turn out to be a good idea. Now we’re living in Maastricht.
“I wanted to study in English or German. My bachelor’s was in International Studies, but in Germany there aren’t that many courses in this field. I’m really glad I chose Maastricht. I love the city and I love my course.” And what about the lower tuition fees in the Netherlands? “That played just a small role.”