Learning and innovation

Research and education at UM is thematic, multidisciplinary, and inspired by social themes. UM distinguishes itself by focusing on three main research themes (i.e. ‘Quality of life’, ‘Europe and a Globalising World’, and ‘Learning and innovation’) which are studied on the basis of different disciplines at all relevant levels. Maastricht is known for its innovative approach to education and for its university wide choice for problem based learning. A defining characteristic of our research in this domain is the strong link between educational research and educational practice. At a micro-level research varies from the exploration of neurological foundations of learning to research in (new) educational formats to enhance individual learning. Meso- and macro-level research include the evaluation of educational interventions both at school and at systems level, as well as corporate and organisational learning and social innovation. A major segment of this research strategy explores the social, political and economic factors that drive technological innovation.

Could you describe your research?
I study the effectivity of Dutch policy in the area of school dropouts. In 2000, the European Council decided to halve the number of pupils without a starting qualification by 2010, which has really drawn attention to the issue. As a result, the EU member states have developed various programmes to reduce high school dropouts. Including the Netherlands – the number of dropouts here dropped from 15.4% in 2000 to 10.1% in 2010.

Contributing to the development of healthcare in Yemen. This was the mission of MUNDO, the UM offi ce for development cooperation, when it launched a four-year, Nuffi c-funded project in 2011 to train health workers in the capital city of Sana’a. Due to unrest in Yemen, the project was delayed by a year. But since April 2012, the link between the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences (FHML) and the High Institute for Health Sciences in Sana’a has been re-established. “In response to the recent unrest, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to send a political signal to the Yemeni government, temporarily suspending the Training of Nurses and Health Statisticians project”, explains MUNDO project manager Geraldine van Kasteren. “A travel warning is still in effect, but now that President Saleh has stepped down we’ve been allowed to resume our activities.”

The Neuroeconomics programme at Maastricht University is about to make a big impression. A specialisation within the Research Master in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience, it boasts a challenging curriculum combined with an interdisciplinary approach, and it intends to live up to the high expectations. Course coordinators Arno Riedl and Teresa Schuhmann aim to help future graduates get into top universities, such as MIT and NYU.

We are currently in the midst of the third wave of innovation in higher education. Now more than ever, the focus is on preparing students for the complex society of both today and tomorrow. To this end, Maastricht University (UM) is making structural investments in educational quality via its Leading in Learning master plan. “At present, we have a top reputation abroad. The key is to maintain it”, says project leader and education theorist Professor Wim Gijselaers, PhD. “Doing nothing is not an option.”

The privatisation of healthcare demands that education, research and medical practice all be clustered under a single umbrella. To this end, the Maastricht/Aachen region aims to be a top European centre in the field of cardiovascular diseases. This is the mission of cross-border “quartermaster” Professor Michael Jacobs, head of surgery at the Maastricht academic hospital (azM). “As a hospital, you can no longer afford to go it alone.”

On Wednesdays and Fridays, at dawn and weather permitting, the cardiovascular surgeon gets on his racing bike in Maastricht and crosses the 30 kilometres of hilly terrain to the University Hospital Aachen. Then, after a long day in the operating theatre, he gets back on his bike for the return trip to South Limburg. “It’s nice to get 60 kilometres’ worth of physical exercise, and time to clear your head and think. Golf, my other addiction, gives you no time at all to think about work. Because if you’re not concentrating you won’t hit the ball well.” 

Professor Henriëtte Maassen van den Brink is one of the leading Dutch academics in the field of evidence-based education. “We provide evidence-based results and make these accessible to policymakers and teachers. We deliver proof of what works and what doesn’t.” In 2009 and 2010, she was proclaimed the ‘Most powerful woman in the Netherlands in the field of Education and Science’ by the Dutch magazine Opzij.

Natural sciences counterpart for UCM

Wednesday, 21 December 2011 10:57

September saw the launch of the Maastricht Science Programme, the natural sciences counterpart to the University College Maastricht (UCM). A unique bachelor’s programme, it allows students to compose their own curricula from courses in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics. According to the proud dean of the programme, Professor Thomas Cleij, PhD, “Nowhere else in the world can students enjoy such enormous freedom of choice.

More and more students from the UK are opting for Maastricht University (UM). Combined with the highly regarded international education on offer at UM, the lower tuition fees in the Netherlands mean that Dutch universities – and thus also Maastricht – are becoming increasingly popular among British students. 

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