UM’s Vision on Education


Maastricht University’s education vision is that we are a research university that offers innovative and high-quality academic bachelor's and master's programmes using methods of instruction that promote active learning to build knowledge and develop academic (research) skills as well as an academic and professional attitude. UM aims to prepare students in the best possible way for the regional, national as well as for the increasingly globalised international labour market. Students who find this profile attractive are invited to join a vibrant, international and multicultural academic community and are expected to invest in their intellectual and personal growth. Students who accept that challenge can expect a learning environment with Problem-Based Learning (PBL) in small groups, guided by our academic staff.

The four overall themes relating to of UM’s vision on education are described in this chapter:

  1. Problem-Based Learning
  2. Internationalisation
  3. Research and education
  4. The Maastricht University student experience


1. Problem-Based Learning (PBL)

Since the founding of UM in 1976, all of its education is built upon the principles of the educational concept of Problem-Based Learning: a constructive, collaborative and contextual approach to learning in which self-directedness plays a central role. UM was one of the first universities to adopt this educational concept. UM is now renowned for its strong tradition in the conceptualization and full-fledged implementation of PBL, a truly student-centred didactic method. The small-scale set-up of education enhances the personal development and the development of skills. Close collaboration of students and teaching staff is an inherent strength of UM’s education approach and also facilitates the integration of research into the educational process. With decades of PBL research and experience, UM has become an expert in PBL and contributes substantially to the development and academic research of this educational approach.

Regarding PBL education our goal is that all our bachelor’s and master’s programs are developed and executed on the basis of the following four principles:

  • Constructive Learning: Learning should be an active process, in which students construct knowledge based on their experience and interactions with the environment. Students are encouraged to activate prior knowledge and link new information with what they have learned before. Thereby, students acquire a thorough understanding and develop meaningful new information, not just mere memorisation.
  • Collaborative Learning: Students should be stimulated to interact with and learn from each other. Through collaborating, sharing ideas and providing support and feedback students get a better understanding of the subject matter. Learning is not seen as a purely individual process, but there is a shared sense of responsibility for learning among the students.
  • Contextual Learning: Learning should take place in a relevant context. Students should encounter new information in the context of relevant situations or problems. This enables them to transfer knowledge across different situations and through applying the knowledge students learn to bridge theory and practice.
  • Self-directed Learning: Students should play an active role in planning, monitoring, and evaluating their own learning. Teaching staff are there to facilitate the learning process, but the students drive the learning process. This way, students learn to regulate their learning in ways that are both motivating and effective and ultimately contribute to a life-long learning attitude.

Based on these principles, students learn to become critical thinkers, to be flexible and prepare for a life in which a life-long learning attitude is crucial and in which they must be able to work in (culturally) diverse teams.

2. Internationalisation

Internationalisation is deeply rooted in the history, spirit and identity of Maastricht University and is a defining element of the institution. Within the Netherlands UM’s international profile stands out, as underlined by the Distinctive Quality Feature (DQF) for Internationalisation awarded by the NVAO in 2013 as well as by the recognition that UM is not only the most international Dutch University but also among the most international universities in the world (World Universities Ranking, Internationalisation pillar THE 2017, International Student ranking THE 2018). Internationalisation at UM has developed naturally as an innate consequence of striving for quality and diversity in education and the intention to develop competent and  highly skilled graduates for the academic labour market in and beyond the Netherlands. Internationalisation processes have been fundamental in developing educational programs, the international classroom concept, as well as globally renowned research institutions. Currently, approximately 50% of the students and 40% of the academic staff come from abroad, while approximately 40% of all students spend part of their studies at another institution/abroad. Maastricht University has over 400 international partnerships, spanning all continents as part of asserting its international footprint as a European University.

The basis for the UM’s most recent vision on internationalisation is defined in the university’s four-year CORE strategy 2017-2021, which details the strategic vision and priorities of the university. The internationalisation strategy of UM is based on two strategic goals:

  • Strengthening internationalisation at home, and
  • Developing as a European university with a global outlook

UM’s vision for internationalisation at home emphasizes the inclusion of European and international themes and learning outcomes in the programmes, while combining the diversity of the International Classroom (ICR) with the problem-based learning (PBL) methodology.  Student recruitment is based on keeping a diverse student community across Dutch, EU and non-EU students and attention is also paid to in- and outgoing mobility, skill development of UM’s teaching and support staff, scholarship and language policy, and the further development of the university’s international community.

As a European university with a global outlook, the UM actively works to support Euregional integration, triple-helix initiatives such as the Brightlands campuses, Campus Brussels and partnerships in two main university networks, namely the Young European Research Universities Network (YERUN) and the Worldwide Universities Network (WUN), and beyond.

Under the two main strategic goals for internationalisation, several objectives have been identified in the internationalisation plan 2017-2019. In the coming years the UM will further optimise its recruitment and scholarship policy, further develop its International Classroom and the international dimension of the curricula by focussing on student learning outcomes and international elements in the programmes. Other examples include encouraging mobility as well as training and competency development of students and staff. In order to facilitate the exchange of best-practices, joint educational, research and mobility initiatives, UM will expand its collaborations with partners and research institutes in the Euregion, the two main networks: WUN and YERUN and with a number of strategic partners across the world. UM will continue to play an active role in the community and increase societal engagement on a local, regional and global level through capacity building and knowledge dissemination. UM has traditionally been one of the most active Dutch universities in the Erasmus+ programme and will strive to expand its participation in all three of the programme’s key actions. While both Dutch and English will remind the teaching languages of UM, the shaping of a multilingual and multicultural community will continue to be a focus, for example by, offering free language courses (currently basic Dutch, and advanced French and German) to its students. On a European level, through its Campus in Brussels, the UM will expand its footprint in the European policy arena, as an ‘Embassy to Europe’ and a platform for our research theme Europe and a Globalising World.

3. Research and Education

UM’s educational model firmly links its programmes to the academic research process. The problem-based approach focuses on research and on making connections to society; research problems are, after all, approached through interaction with the larger community and the results may help to solve these problems. Besides already providing students with important research skills and a research attitude through our PBL system, with the introduction of the concept of CORE (Collaborative Open Research Education) in the current strategic programme, Maastricht University has expressed the ambition to deepen the connection between research and education in the programmes; hereby also striving to offer students more interdisciplinary programmes and activities, and strengthening our links with local, regional and international partners (Collaborative and Open).

UM strives to educate its students to become socially responsible and critical global citizens who are well-prepared for the national and international labour market. Engaging in existing research of our academics is a perfect tool for integrated learning and synthesizing knowledge and skills that have been accumulated in earlier courses as well as preparing the ground for future learning. Research projects offer the best way to address values such as critical thinking, ethical behaviour, innovativeness, (social) responsibility and sustainability. These values may derive from the content of the projects and stimulate students to engage with society. It is also key to how we should organize and employ research for educational purposes. Integrating research and education is in our view also the best way to exploit the passion that is already there: passion of researchers for what they are good at and passion of students to have new experiences and address relevant societal issues.

The choices of UM for Problem-Based Learning and a further integration of research and education through the CORE concept ensure that our students are equipped with important 21st century skills such as analytical learning, complex problem-solving in a globalized world and (intercultural) teamwork. Acquiring research skills and a research attitude, next to working independently, creatively, together with others, are at least as important as acquiring knowledge. The objective is therefore that through the PBL system and the actual involvement of students in our research processes, we strive to equip our students with a life-long learning attitude needed in an ever-changing and demanding society. Furthermore, the goal to create valuable relations between the university and society and encouraging students to be actively involved in this partnership through our research, contributes to a meaningful study experience and enhances employability.

4. The Maastricht University student experience (MUSE)

UM believes students should be enabled and stimulated to have a meaningful experience during their time in Maastricht, both within and outside their study programmes. Our bachelor and master programmes are at the centre of the Maastricht University student experience. Students are presented with active learning in small groups, often in a very international surrounding. Related to these study programmes, students can enrich their study experience by – for example - taking part in one of our excellence programmes, taking part in the activities of our employability project, or become a member of a study association. Next to these study-related activities, students can participate and engage in many other ways within and outside the university. In order to further enrich the Maastricht University student experience, UM facilitates, encourages and supports curricular, co-curricular, and extra-curricular student engagement in the broadest sense. There is also attention needed in this respect for students to find a healthy balance in their life. UM facilitates students to find this balance by offering guidance and support through various channels. This is an area which needs further impulse and specific attention as the number of students (nationally) experiencing high levels of pressure and stress is increasing. In chapter two and in the report on the Quality Agreements, this topic is discussed in further detail.

The overall objective of the Maastricht University student experience is to enable students to have a meaningful experience in Maastricht which helps them to develop and shape academically, personally and professionally. Within this experience, the objective of the excellence programmes is to give students the opportunity to enhance their creative and critical thinking skills and engage in research activities. The overall goal of the employability project is to equip students with the knowledge and competencies they need to make the successful transition from university to employment and become successful professionals. With respect to student participation and engagement, UM aims to provide students with a wide spectrum of activities and opportunities both within their study programme and outside of it and strives to help students to keep a healthy balance in their life.

The Refugee Project Maastricht was called to life at the beginning of 2015 with the goal of building bridges between the new arriving people from war-threatened countries all around the world and students also from all around the world. The aim is to connect students from the city of Maastricht with the asylum seekers on a level where they can meet and become friends and get to know the ideas, habits and belief systems of each other.