Three new Maastricht programmes rejected

Campus Villa Flora in Venlo

Three new Maastricht programmes rejected

FSE-dean: “I’m convinced there are plenty of employment opportunities”

17-01-2024 · News

MAASTRICHT. Applications for a Maastricht bachelor’s and two master’s programmes were rejected last year. Maastricht University was unable to convince the Minister of Education that employers were actually waiting for these graduates. Besides, one of the master’s had too much overlap with programmes at Wageningen University. The latter feels that the education plans in Venlo are superfluous anyway.

UM had wanted to start with the master’s of Responsible Data Science, the master’s of Crop Biotechnology and Engineering and the bachelor’s of Sustainable Bioscience, next September. The first was to be given in Maastricht, the last two in Venlo. For the Higher Education Efficiency Committee (Commissie Doelmatigheid Hoger Onderwijs, or CDHO), which advises the Minister of Education, it was a no go. The programmes do not meet the needs of the labour market, the assessment says.

Cultivation technology

Maastricht University’s ambitions in the Venlo region, one of the largest greenhouse farming areas in the Netherlands, are great. According to dean Thomas Cleij from the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE), the Greenport Campus is to become a hotspot for research and education in the field of safe, healthy food and sustainable agriculture, as he said at the end of 2022 in Observant. The Future Farming institute is meanwhile taking shape. A suitable bachelor’s and master’s programme would be the educational framework: Sustainable Bioscience and Crop Biotechnology and Engineering. The first one would yield bio scientists who focus on complex sustainable issues such as climate change and water shortages, which in turn have consequences for health and the food system, stated UM’s application. The master’s programme (a collaboration with Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen) would focus on the development of sustainable plant products – such as plant physiology and greenhouse and cultivation technology.


Although UM had submitted all kinds of documentation with the application to prove that there is a demand on the labour market, the answer was still no. Yes, there is a need for interdisciplinarily educated graduates, who can contribute to the ‘sustainability transition’, but is the Netherlands really waiting for these scientists in particular? The committee doesn’t see that. Another criterion that CDHO looks at: is the study programme unique? Are there any existing programmes with a similar curriculum? That is the case, UM realises. Across the country, but certainly at Wageningen University (WU). UM nevertheless sees her programmes as complementary because of differences in content and the specific Maastricht Problem-Based Learning system.
Wageningen raised an objection (at a particular moment in the CDHO process, every other higher education institute may “provide its views”): UM’s new programmes are superfluous. Although the committee does see possibilities for the bachelor’s, in the case of the master’s of Crop Biotechnology and Engineering, they agree with Wageningen University: the overlap is too great.

Game of chess

What remains is the question: What next? The fact that a programme has been turned down, doesn’t mean the end. Take the Maastricht bachelor’s of Brain Science, which is about to start in a few months’ time. The first attempt to get through the so-called macrosuitability test, was in 2021. It failed. Attempt number two, in 2022, was rewarded. For that to happen, an improved (and more articulate) foundation was required of the labour market need.
New applications for the three study programmes will be submitted in a while. “We will incorporate the feedback,” says dean Cleij. “Of course, these decisions were disappointing, it was the first move in a game of chess. We will just make a new move.” What makes it difficult, he outlines, is that this faculty wants new things, often “atypical, crazy things”, of an interdisciplinary nature. The latter needs to be highlighted “prominently”, “and apparently we didn’t do that well enough, or the committee didn’t see this sufficiently”. Sustainable Bioscience is not a traditional Biology programme – for which the labour market is actually not bad, but also not great – says Cleij, but a bachelor’s that is at the interface of sustainability, technology and nutrition. “I’m sure there are plenty of employment opportunities in that field.”

18 new study programmes from Dutch universities were given the go-ahead

Last year, CDHO dismissed 22 applications for new study programmes, six of them being university programmes. The ministry’s decisions show that the problem is usually that educational institutes close by already offer similar programmes. Eighteen programmes were given the go-ahead. (HOP)

Author: Wendy Degens

Photo: Loraine Bodewes

Categories: News, news_top
Tags: venlo,farming institute,study programmes,villa flora,fse, cleij

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