Assistant Professor Annemieke Klijn wrote an interesting report about the role of the University Fund Limburg/SWOL in the establishment of Maastricht University. With her permission, we will present the report to you, divided into six short chapters. This is the second part. Here is part 1. 


The Foundation for Higher Education in Limburg

”New opportunities presented themselves only after Limburg gave up on its aim of getting a university with a Catholic profile. In 1964 Charles van Rooy (see picture), a KVP member who had served as minister of Social Affairs, was appointed Governor of Limburg, and he realized that his province should no longer hold on to the aspiration of attracting a specifically Catholic educational institution, also in light of the ongoing de-pillarization of Dutch society. Because Limburg was showing a rapid population growth, he felt that this province should again start a lobby for a university, also in response to the growing number of students nationwide. In this context and at the initiative of Van Rooy, on 8 November 1965 the Foundation for Higher Education in Limburg (Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs Limburg, SWOL) was set up. Its aim was to prepare the ground for the establishment of a university in Limburg by organizing a strong lobby towards the national government in The Hague, as well as by mobilizing the ‘Limburg community’ to start working actively an attracting a university. SWOL also saw it as its task to initiate collaboration and consultation with individuals and institutions in the nearby international region in order to achieve its goal. In this way the new foundation built on the earlier plea by Coopmans.


On 28 December 1965, SWOL met for the first time in the State Hall of the Provinciehuis in Maastricht. The general board was composed of 60 members: 59 men and  a few women, including  ‘miss’ Truus Kok, social worker with the Dutch mining company Staatsmijnen and also an MP for the KVP. The board members came from across the province: many professors, mayors, MPs and representatives from the business sector, such as Henri Gelissen, director of the Provincial Limburg Electricity Company. Van Rooy pursued a broad base of support as well as access to the national government in The Hague. SWOL board members also included Fons Baeten, an MP and KVP member, but also the political heavyweight Sjeng Tans, a leading figure in the Dutch Labour party (PvdA). Tans, a Catholic socialist from Maastricht who wanted to move away from the heavily religion-based party system in the Netherlands, saw it as a kind of rehabilitation that Van Rooy asked him to be on the board of SWOL. He was one of the few, if not the only person, on the extensive board who was not a member of the Catholic KVP. Even in 1957, Tans was still barred from the Higher Education Study Committee because as an active Labour politician he was unacceptable to the Catholic establishment in Limburg. In 1963 the militant Tans rose to the chairmanship of the PvdA, while in his role of MP he was known as an education specialist.


SWOL was a kind of ‘unified’ Limburg lobby, but, as stressed by chairman Van Rooy at the launch of SWOL, a new university in Limburg would equally have to serve non-Limburg residents of course. Less than two weeks before, on 17 December 1965, the minister of Economic Affairs, Joop Den Uyl (a member of the PvdA), announced the closure of the Limburg mines in the Municipal Theatre of nearby Heerlen. This made economic restructuring in Limburg all the more urgent, as also argued by Van Rooy. At the first meeting of SWOL he indicated that the university to be established would in fact play a crucial role in such economic restructuring. He was also thinking of setting up academic programmes in economics, law, sociology and psychology.


In late 1965 Van Rooy could not have surmised that six months later, in the summer of 1966, there was a discussion at the Dutch ministry of Education and Science about a possible eighth medical faculty in the Netherlands. The seventh medical faculty in the country had been assigned to Rotterdam in the spring of 1965. Yet the number of medical students and the need for doctors continued to grow quickly, which prompted the new discussion. To investigate the issue, the so-called Eighth Medical Faculty Study Committee (Studiecommissie Achtste Medische Faculteit) was set up in December 1966, chaired by Gerard van Walsum, a prominent Labour member.”


Text: Annemieke Klijn (Assistant Professor & Curator Art and Heritage Committee, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University)
Picture: Charles Van Rooy, painted by Charles Eyck – with thanks to the Province of Limburg


Here is chapter three: ‘A new medical faculty?’.