videos on its early history of Maastricht University
thanks to SWOL
videos on its early history of Maastricht University

Maastricht University has recently digitalized several videos on its early history after a financial contribution from the Universiteitsfonds Limburg/SWOL. The ‘Limburg University Fund’ emerged out of the Limburg Scientific Education Foundation (Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs Limburg, SWOL), set up in 1965 as major lobby for the establishment of State University Limburg, today called Maastricht University (UM). Many videos are part of the collection of the University Library, but Science Vision has a collection of videos as well.

From the start, the UM has paid much attention to ‘modern’ educational resources, and this is why today there are hundreds of videos, which are stored in particular in the University Library repository. To make them accessible to a wider audience, it is necessary to digitalize them. In selecting films to be digitalized, the Heritage Working Group decided that two criteria were important: the videos should well reflect the UM’s specific educational objectives, as well as aspects of its regional and/or international dimension. As a non-traditional university, after all, the UM was designed to pursue educational renewal. In terms of its didactics, the educational effort highlighted ‘problem-orientation’, self-motivation, attitude development and small-scale organization of teaching. Inspiration was found in educational models developed in the United States and Canada. The Maastricht experiment would soon attract attention from other universities, in the Netherlands as well as abroad. The following films address many of the abovementioned concerns and as such they offer a wonderful insight into the early history of the UM.

In the first film fragment, a student explains how the UM medical faculty, the eighth in the country, implemented ‘problem-orientation and self-motivation’. The film was made in 1980. Nearly forty years later, the viewer will be struck by the narrator’s quiet pace, also because ample time is taken to consult notes, and by the smoking going on during a tutorial group. The second film fragment tells us much about the ‘flower power’ atmosphere that around 1980 could still be felt at the medical faculty. In this film, biologist Gerard Majoor (beard and red sweater) and psychologist Henk Schmidt (glasses and light-green sweater) present quite a show, together with the students. At the time, Majoor and Schmidt took turns as coordinator of the course on ‘Study at the medical faculty Maastricht’.


Being an educational psychologist, Henk Schmidt felt that learning in tutorial groups still evolved quite chaotically in those early years. Moreover, he thought ‘problem-oriented learning’ to be a confusing term. For this reason, he introduced ‘problem-based learning’ as a central notion, also to indicate that it involved a specific method: practical and theoretical problems were meant to challenge students to be in charge of their learning themselves. Schmidt introduced the so-called ‘Zevensprong’ (or ‘7 jump’), a way to structure the learning process based on seven steps. After gaining more experience with it, tutors in charge of supervising the learning process received clear instructions. The third film zooms in on twenty-one problematic classroom situations, in order to prepare the tutor for his/her task. In the course of the 1980s and 1990s, the academic world increasingly became interested in the Maastricht model of learning. Initially, the new educational method gained appreciation in particular from universities abroad. A major role thereby was played by the Network of Community Oriented Educational Institutions for Health Sciences, an initiative of the World Health Organisation. The Summer Course on Problem-based Learning drew hundreds of university instructors from across the world to Maastricht. This is why the fourth film ‘The Tasks of the Tutor’ (1993) – with Majoor in a leading role as tutor – was aimed at an English-language audience.

The interdisciplinary programme in Health Sciences, launched in 1980, also introduced problem-based learning as a matter of principle. The fifth film illustrates the skills needed to lead a discussion in a tutorial group. This film from 1985 was targeted to an international, English-language audience already, probably in the context of a summer course.

The information film entitled ‘Ignorance is the source of all evil’ from 1988 shows that at the time the UM still predominantly aimed to attract Dutch-language students. The university sought to entice students by emphasizing Maastricht as a ‘fun city’, but also by stressing the ‘enjoyable’ aspects of the small-scale organization of teaching.

Problem-based learning at the UM was first developed within the medical faculty. That the programme in legal studies, set up in 1982, embraced this educational form was a bold experiment indeed, for in such a context it had not been tried anywhere else yet: a world first! Through a thematic approach the new programme wanted to break with traditional boundaries between disciplines. Moreover, fairly much attention was paid to practical skills. For example, students took classes in negotiation skills and they could practice in a simulated courtroom.

© 2022 Art and Heritage Commission, Maastricht University