André Postema André Postema Sacha Ruland

Farewell to the finest university in the Netherlands

Written by  Annelotte Huiskes Wednesday, 05 February 2014 14:35
In 2005 André Postema relocated to Maastricht. His wife, a gynaecologist, had already worked in the Maastricht academic hospital for five years. Postema had been shuffling back and forth between Maastricht and Utrecht, where he was vice president of Capgemini. When their children arrived, it was time to settle in Limburg – and so began his eight-year term as vice president of the university’s Executive Board. In January, during the Dies Natalis ceremony, Postema took his leave with an address entitled ‘Maastricht University: a love story’. “That genuinely reflects my experience here”, he says. “I think Maastricht is the finest university in the Netherlands, and I also think I had the best job in it.”

Vice president of UM, vice president of Capgemini – does he perform best behind the scenes, playing second fiddle, so to speak? “Not in the least”, he responds with surprise. “That’s just a coincidence. As vice president in Maastricht I was responsible for overall operations, so I was heavily involved in all sorts of areas. And as there were no strict boundaries between the board members’ portfolios, we all approached them together. Which is fortunate, because it meant I was able to play a role in education and research as well.”

A student-centred research university

When Postema took office, UM had a particularly strong teaching record. This meant that, with the introduction of the bachelor/master system, it ran the risk of becoming a bachelor’s university. “My first major battle here was to make UM a student-centred research university”, says Postema. “That was really a joint effort in which the faculties played a crucial role. Over the last eight years we’ve grown from 11,000 to 16,000 students. The intake of master’s students is now roughly the same as that for bachelor’s students, and the number of PhD defences has doubled. What’s more, our indirect government funding and contract funding for research have also doubled. We’ve achieved our goal, and I’m extremely proud of that. I was able to be here and be part of it. Now it’s important to further strengthen our regional and Euregional role. To this end the focus will be on developing the sciences at UM. We want to be a key player in the Euregional labour market in the fields of materials and the bio-based economy.”

With flying colours

Postema’s major task as vice president was to free up money for the primary processes (research and education) by making cutbacks in the secondary processes (operations and administrative support). “In recent years the service centres have had to work with the same annual budgets, while the university has grown substantially in size and funding. And yet, we’ve been able to maintain high-quality service provision. Our service centres are still rated highly in staff and student evaluations, which is to their credit. And we’re financially very healthy. Actually, it was an exciting part of my job, this game of juggling different sources of funding and maintaining quality.”

The outcome of UM’s 2013 institutional accreditation procedure was also positive. “We came through all aspects of the accreditation with flying colours. That’s a compliment to the university; we’ve got a good thing going here."


Postema was closely involved with the development of the sciences at UM and on the Chemelot Campus. “The university was initially founded with a focus on medicine. Yet, given Limburg’s economic profile, chemistry would have been a more logical choice. Since 2009 we’ve put this firmly back on the agenda. Not by establishing traditional, monodisciplinary programmes and research lines, but rather by exploring the very boundaries between scientific fields. For instance, the Maastricht Science Programme will deliver its first graduates this year. This is a fantastic, extremely successful programme – I’d sign up for it in an instant. We’ve launched two new science master’s, one in bio-based materials and one in systems biology. And we’ve established a unique link with the Chemelot site, where we’ve had a campus since 2010. In this way, we’re working in our own way to develop a strong faculty of sciences. I see that as typical for UM. We’re pioneers and we dare to swim against the stream. That’s how we became great, and I take a lot of pleasure from that.”

Educational innovation

In addition to strengthening UM’s anchoring in its region, another spearhead of the Executive Board is educational innovation. These two elements, after all, were the motives for establishing the university in the first place. “Educational innovation is a real challenge. The landscape is changing rapidly; small-scale, active learning is no longer UM’s exclusive domain. Add to that the vast opportunities for life-long-learning and eLearning. To respond to this, we need to better organise educational innovation at UM and put many more incentives in place. The first steps have already been taken.”


UM will continue to grow, Postema predicts. This growth will come not through the existing programmes, but through new programmes and avenues of research. “The investment programme Kennis-As, which we developed in collaboration with the Province of Limburg, will serve as the vehicle to put this in motion. And we’re not talking only about programmes in the health and life sciences. The School of Business and Economics is launching a new Bachelor in Emerging Markets Business, and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is developing a Bachelor in Global and Regional Studies (both working titles). The latter will become a major pillar of the faculty alongside Arts & Culture and European Studies. So even in the inner city, we haven’t yet reached full capacity.”

André Postema(1969) studied history and economics and has worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the NIBC Bank and Ernst & Young/Capgemini. He served as vice president of Maastricht University’s Executive Board from 2005 to 2013.

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Read 27467 times

Maastricht University Webmagazine

Marketing & Communications
Postbus 616, 6200 MD Maastricht
Minderbroedersberg 4-6, 6211 KL  Maastricht
Tel: +31 43 388 5222
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download UM Magazine

Read a digital version of Maastricht University magazine,
or download the PDF.
UM Webmagazine June 2017

Connect with us