Renée Stalmeijer and Anja Krumeich Renée Stalmeijer and Anja Krumeich Sacha Ruland

International cooperation key to distinguished health masters

In Body
Written by  Jos Cortenraad Wednesday, 04 February 2015 10:02

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the recent cases of bird flu in Europe make it all the more clear that health is a global matter. Two master’s programmes at Maastricht University’s (UM) Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences offer the requisite international approach: the MSc in Health Professions Education and the MSc in Global Health. In recent years, these programmes have attracted increasing numbers of students and professionals from all over the world. Programme directors Renée Stalmeijer and Anja Krumeich are preparing for yet more applications.

Last autumn, both Health Professions Education and Global Health were awarded the coveted Distinctive Quality Feature for Internationalisation by the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO). “We’re extremely proud”, says Krumeich, programme director of Global Health. The NVAO panel assessed her programme as ‘good’. “This is a rare achievement. It confirms the high level of our lecturers, theses, supervision and programme content. The competition is fierce: the number of European master’s programmes in the field of global health is growing rapidly.”  

In spite of the competition, UM is doing well. “With our Problem-Based Learning system and strong focus on internationalisation, Maastricht is among the leaders”, says Stalmeijer, director of the two-year, part-time master’s in Health Professions Education (MHPE). “We accommodate around 30 participants per year, who come from all corners of the globe. Most are healthcare professionals with important positions in education, but no teaching background. They come to us to learn how to design, evaluate and manage education. We give them a solid foundation based on our strengths in education and educational research, and ultimately they become leaders in the domain of health professions education. This is our core activity: educating new generations of health professionals. As programme directors or curriculum designers, our alumni shape and innovate education in their own countries, all over the world.”

Stalmeijer continues: “In time, we’d like to grow and enter into strong alliances with universities around the world. At present, we already collaborate with MHPE programmes in Canada, Singapore and New York.”

Global Health is a one-year, full-time master’s programme. Its predecessor was targeted at healthcare professionals with a bachelor’s degree and a job. The present curriculum retains the original focus on finance, (crisis) management, mobility and politics, but since 2009 has also welcomed recent graduates. Krumeich: “The new setup allows us to bring together participants of even more different cultures and backgrounds. From starting professionals to experienced doctors from India, Canada, the US, Europe and Africa, they come together here to work on collaborative assignments. After three months, participants can choose to continue the programme at a different university, and thus gain experience in a different international group.”


Global Health attracts 300 to 400 applicants each year. Approximately 75 are admitted. “This is a large number for a Global Health master’s”, says Krumeich. “Interest is high because we collaborate with universities worldwide that also offer a Global Health curriculum and award the same Master of Science degree. And Maastricht is especially popular because we’re so internationally oriented. More than half of the students come from outside Europe. I’m glad there’s so much interest. Dealing with epidemics, introducing new healthcare concepts and treatments, organising global health; all this calls for a broad perspective. Doctors and other healthcare professionals fly out all over the world. How do you get them to cooperate? That’s the key question in this programme.”

The two programmes share international appeal, but in terms of content they are very different. Health Professions Education is aimed at healthcare professionals across the entire care chain, from doctors and nurses to physiotherapists and occupational therapists, who want to obtain a master’s degree. Two courses of three weeks each are held in Maastricht, but otherwise learning largely takes place online. Stalmeijer: “Distance learning is no problem content wise, and we’re trying to be more creative in how we deal with assignments and assessment. The main challenge for participants is staying on schedule. That’s why it’s important for them to get to know one another during their time in Maastricht. When they go back home, they know who they’re working with and who they can call on for moral support. Experience shows that the collaborative aspects of our programme give it clear added value and contribute to its success.”


In contrast, the Global Health students are stationed in Maastricht for most of the year, supporting one another in person. Yet they, too, are involved in distance education. In online courses, they collaborate with fellow students from partner universities. “This gives them the requisite challenge of working in international groups”, says Krumeich. “People from different cultures, disciplines, educational systems and workplaces come together and have to figure out some common ground. Not everyone can deal with the direct approach of the Dutch, while others have issues with Asian-style reserve. It’s a social pressure cooker. Of course, a tutor is always there to put out the worst fires, but the bottom line is that they have to cooperate. They need one another. When it comes to international health, you’ll never make it alone. And that’s what the Global Health programme is all about: solving problems together.”


Anja Krumeich (1958) studied anthropology in Amsterdam and obtained her PhD for her research on mother-and-child care in Dominica. She has worked at UM since 2001. Currently, she is associate professor at the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences and programme director of the Master in Global Health.

Renée Stalmeijer (1982) studied education sciences at UM and obtained her PhD on the topic of clinical teaching during medical residency. She is assistant professor at the Department of Educational Development and Research and programme director of the Master in Health Professions Education. In addition, she is an affiliated scholar at the Wilson Centre in Toronto.

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