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Waiting for the international classroom

DOPE student fraction is concerned

Integration between the various nationalities at the UM is not successful yet, concludes the DOPE student fraction in the university council. What is the Executive Board doing to improve this? And what about the influx of Dutch students? Are the target figures (50 per cent in the bachelor's and master's phase) being reached?

The DOPE student fraction expressed its concern during the meeting of the university council's I&S committee last Wednesday. “Anyone who studies in Maastricht should find a good mix of nationalities in their tutorial groups. No matter what faculty they are studying at,” explain council members Tibor Nussy and Jim de Vos again after the meeting. “So not ten students with one nationality and two with another, as is now often the case at the School of Business and Economics or at Psychology. That must be better and it can be better.”

During the committee meeting, rector Gerard Mols emphasised the importance of the international classroom. “It’s part of the strategic plan. We want diversity in the classroom: in political background, nationality, gender, and languages. This is what students will encounter in their later professional lives too.” Various faculties are already addressing the issue of integration, according to Mols. “We have to train staff and students. But it’s not easy.” How to deal, for example, with students who regroup during the breaks and speak German, Chinese or Dutch with each other? “That’s a matter of including or excluding. This is dangerous in a small-scale learning environment. We must make students aware of it.”

The student fraction also pointed out that so far - three years after the publication of Wim Swaan's report with 21 recommendations for the improvement of the integration and the beginning of a pilot project at SBE - too little progress has been made. “We are not interested in how it will be in three or four years. Our voters want education in an international classroom now.”

“The year 2012 is the year to take concrete steps,” was Mols’ reaction, acknowledging that things are not moving fast. “I don’t want to rush to conclusions, I want to have measures that can be implemented UM-wide.” There is a new report about integration, written by Fred Stevens from the Faculty of Health Medicine and Life Sciences. This will be discussed in the various bodies in the coming period, and will also be dealt with during the UM's Leading in Learning congress on 1 December.

Furthermore, a task force is busy attracting people from different countries, Mols said. The rector feels that the impression that the DOPE fraction has that the UM is doing too little to recruit in the Netherlands (mainly in the West of the country), is incorrect. “We have actually intensified our recruitment in the Netherlands since 2009. We don’t want to lose the Dutch market. We’re still visible in the Netherlands.” Referring to the budget for the various country teams: for the Netherlands, 90 thousand euros was reserved in 2011, for the United Kingdom 60 thousand, Belgium 35 thousand and for countries like China and Turkey, 87,500 euros. And as far as the number of Dutch students at the UM goes: it is still growing. Looking at the university as a whole, both in the master's and the bachelor's phase, they constitute more than 50 per cent of the student population (although it is a different story if one looks at individual faculties).

 

Riki Janssen

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