Fewer new members for Maastricht student associations

Fewer new members for Maastricht student associations

“With few Dutch first-year students, there is a smaller pond in which to fish”

27-09-2023 · News

MAASTRICHT. The four large Maastricht student associations all welcomed fewer new members than last year. Rowing association Saurus managed to recruit most (123); Tragos, Circumflex and KoKo dropped below the hundred newcomers.

Saurus also had the largest batch of first-year students last year, with 155 new members. So, this year the number drops by about 20 per cent. “That is certainly a difference, but it is not too bad,” says Saurus chairwoman Rosanne van Ballegooien. “Last year was a real peak, partly because there was a lot of attention for the anniversary year. The association normally ends up above 115 new members, and that is the case now too.”

KoKo has registered 90 new members. That is similar to the years before the Covid pandemic, according to secretary Joy Langewouters. “The situation is now back to normal. The past few years, the number of new members was actually absurdly high.” In 2020 and 2021, KoKo was even the leader with more than three hundred registrations during INKOM. Other social clubs also saw a considerable increase of first-year students who were looking for social contacts.

At Circumflex, the number of newcomers (95) is lower than usual. “Last year, there were 120, which was similar to the years before Covid,” says chairwoman Sarah Cox. Nevertheless, she is “very happy. It is a good batch, the total number of members has even risen slightly.” Tragos, with 87 new members, also has “much fewer first-year students than normal,” says chairman Max Beckers. “Last year, we had about twenty more.”

Fewer Dutch students

As an explanation for the decline in numbers, Circumflex and Tragos refer to the increasing internationalisation of UM: of all first-year students this year, a mere 36 per cent is from the Netherlands this year. Cox: “It is nice that there are more foreign students, but we have noticed that fewer enrol with a student association. Even though they are certainly welcome.” The language often forms an obstacle: the great majority of the members speak Dutch.

At Circumflex, the number of internationals among the newcomers “can be counted on the fingers of one hand”. Tragos has one new international member, all told. “At least, one new member who does not speak Dutch,” says chairman Beckers. “There are usually only one or two, and almost always people who want to improve their Dutch. That usually goes quickly, because speaking Dutch is a core value for us.”

At Saurus and KoKo, a larger number of the newcomers – around 20 per cent – is from abroad. Saurus chairwoman Van Ballegooien: “At the beginning, a lot is in English, but it is nice if the international students start to learn our language as the year progresses. It is always a good thing to hear them speak fluent Dutch when they leave the association a few years later.” KoKo has special English committees and activities, although part of the international members do also eventually learn Dutch here.

Bad image

Tragos appeared in negative news items last year, due to misconduct during hazing. Did this play a role in the decreasing registration figures? Chairman Beckers: “That is of course difficult to say, but we haven’t noticed anything at any rate. With regard to registrations, we are always in line with Circumflex, and we see that now too.” Despite the exclusion from official events, the association “did well at INKOM. Although not having a stand during the MECC party on Friday most likely had an effect – many students only make their decision at the end of the week.”

At Saurus, they have noticed that the image of associations has changed, says chairwoman Van Ballegooien. “It was more difficult to reach the usual number of registrations this year. More often, the new generation appears to have the idea that we are old-fashioned, static clubs where the only thing people do is drink. It takes more time than before to make them see through that stereotyping.”

Onafhankelijk Maastricht (OM, or Independent Maastricht), the umbrella organisation of the 31 independent debating societies with a total of some 700 members, states that they will not have the registration figures until November. Last year, the total number of members increased by roughly thirty, says OM secretary Vera Broască. Sportraad MUSST, which covers the Maastricht student sports associations, will also know the number of new members in November.

Photo: Joey Roberts

Categories: News, news_top
Tags: student associations,members,registrations,saurus,circumflex,koko,tragos,om,musst,students

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