Maastricht University has been offering a double degree programme since summer 2012. Students with a bachelor’s degree in economics can obtain two master’s degrees within 18 months: one in Maastricht and the other from one of five carefully selected partner universities. Joana Tremoceiro from Portugal and Matthijs Rameckers from the Netherlands were among the first graduates – and they are already nostalgic about the programme.
Rameckers and Tremoceiro have the same motives for applying. Having completed their undergraduate degrees in 2012, both are looking for a broad master’s programme that also offers international experience. After his exchange semester in Copenhagen, Rameckers is keen to soak up some southern European culture, while Tremoceiro is interested in Maastricht’s Problem-Based Learning (PBL) system.
A double master’s degree in two countries for the price of one, not to mention saving a whole year – what could be better? “Not much,” Rameckers smiles, “but the subject matter is of course the main motivation. And if you’re accepted, you get to study at a second top university in addition to Maastricht. That’s good for your CV, and it gives you the international experience you need nowadays. I deliberately chose Portugal to broaden my horizons. I’m planning to look for a job in Paris, Amsterdam or London. A Master of Science from Maastricht and a Master of Management from Lisbon should give me the best possible chances.”
Tremoceiro, too, expects to have no problems finding a job – even in Portugal, where the economic crisis has led to unprecedented unemployment levels. “I’d prefer to work in Portugal, and I’m confident it will happen. The country needs highly educated people. A bachelor’s degree from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa is worth a lot; it’s the best business school in Portugal. And a double master’s degree with an international focus opens even more doors. That’s why I signed up for the programme – and because Maastricht is a top university.”
Tremoceiro chooses Maastricht, Rameckers Lisbon; and so after a rigorous selection process in September 2012 they find themselves starting out at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa. It is the beginning of what they describe as a “very special period”. Their initial connection quickly turns into a deep friendship. “We all had three years of study behind us, so we were quite happy being independent. And yet we immediately felt this special click”, explains Rameckers. “Italians, Germans, Dutch, a French and a Portuguese student. Completely different in almost every way. But from day one we were a team. Eating together, studying together, going out together. I never expected the programme to have such a social impact.”
Tremoceiro nods. “That closeness from Lisbon continued in Maastricht, where we followed the second part of the programme from February 2013. We became very tight. Of course all 11 of you have the same goal. A double master’s degree is tough; you need one another. So the social factor is important, in Maastricht perhaps even more so than in Lisbon. The Universidade Nova de Lisboa still uses the traditional teaching format: the lecturer lectures, the students listen and take notes. In Maastricht you sit down together with the tutor or professor and discuss the issues from all angles. PBL gives you nowhere to hide. Every person in the group is important. I really enjoyed the discussion, the interaction. You learn to debate, listen and collaborate. I’m not saying you don’t learn that in Lisbon, but you learn differently. For me, that was the added value of doing a double degree at two completely different universities.”
Rameckers was used to PBL. So did he struggle in Lisbon? “Not particularly. We could interrupt, ask questions. The professors weren’t used to that, but didn’t make an issue of it. I’m also not a priori against the lecture system. Certainly in this programme it wasn’t a problem. In Portugal we did more theoretical subjects: HRM, Statistics, Financial Management. I didn’t find the content overly difficult, but it was a lot of work. It gave you a solid foundation. Then in Maastricht we had courses like Innovation Management and Leadership, which lend themselves more to PBL. I learnt a great deal from the combination of both education systems – and from the contributions of the other students.”
The 11 participants of the first double degree cohort defended their theses in January. Tremoceiro examined import and export strategies for companies, while Rameckers explored service provision and trend analyses. After their graduation in Lisbon, they all went their own separate ways – with a touch of nostalgia, that much is clear. “We have this special bond”, says Rameckers. “I expect we’ll still see one another regularly.” Tremoceiro hopes the same. “I’m happy I made this choice; I would genuinely recommend it to everyone. Also because Maastricht is such a beautiful, historic city. It’s so compact, you can reach everything on foot or by bike. I think we should hold our reunions here.”
The Maastricht University School of Economics and Business collaborates in the double degree programme with universities in Lisbon (Portugal), Louvain (Belgium), Nice and Lille (France), Brisbane (Australia) and Kingston (Canada). Participants follow two curricula and receive two master’s titles. The selection criteria are tough, taking applicants’ motivation and ambition into account as well. The programme costs the same as a regular master’s degree.
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By Jos Cortenraad
Source: UM webmagazine, 5 February 2014