Unique collaboration between university and regional business community

KnowledgeEngineering@Work: talented students work at regional companies alongside studies

The Knowledge Engineering programme at Maastricht University and the regional business community are teaming up to offer a new form of education: combined working and learning. Never before has this combination been offered in the Netherlands at an academic level. Yet it has many advantages: companies can draw on students’ knowledge and students can gain relevant work experience with the aim of strengthening the Limburg knowledge economy.

Frank Thuijsman, associate professor and project initiator: “Our partner institution in Germany, the RWTH in Aachen, has a similar programme that combines work and academic education. The programme has been so successful they are unable to meet the high demand for students. Following in their footsteps, Maastricht plans to launch a similar programme in close collaboration with the RWTH. At this point we can learn a lot from their experiences, but in the future we hope to work together with the RWTH, for instance, to set up internships for students in the Euregion.”

With the help of a subsidy from Limburg Economic Development (LED), Thuijsman is conducting a survey among various employers in the region to determine how the business community will respond to this combined learning method. Members of REGITEL – a collaboration between Limburg companies and knowledge institutions in the field of information technology, telecommunication and media – in particular have shown an interest in working together. “Companies can immediately apply the ICT knowledge these students acquire in practice. The contact between students, Limburg employers and the university will create new and inspirational opportunities for all parties in the future. This will help the region retain highly-trained and highly-educated students and thereby contribute to a stronger knowledge economy in Limburg.”

What will the programme look like? “This is something we will develop in more detail over the next few months. Our goal is to offer second-year Knowledge Engineering students the opportunity to work 2.5 days per week, and devote the remaining 2.5 days to their studies in Maastricht. We’ll start with the top 25% of students, with the goal of offering this combined method to many more students in the future. We expect a lot of interest from the students. They’ll receive a reimbursement similar to a paid internship and they’ll gain relevant work experience during their studies.”

Source: Maastricht University, 3 December 2013

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