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 third part. Here are part 1 and part 2.


A new medical faculty?

”At the SWOL meeting of 12 January 1967, Tans got up to speak right away to inform those present that this eighth faculty was surely destined to become a reality. This is why from then on SWOL should start concentrating on finding ways to attract that new medical faculty. Tans argued that SWOL should stress in particular cultural-political arguments in favour of Maastricht, for such reasons were unique to Maastricht. Regardless of the significance of these social-economic arguments in favour of Limburg, the other candidates also put forward social-economic arguments. The competitors included (prospective) facilities of higher education in Tilburg, Eindhoven, Twente, the Apeldoorn-Deventer-Zutphen triangle and the Kampen-Zwolle combination.


SWOL responded swiftly, and in that same month of January 1967 it managed to present a paper on the founding of a medical faculty in Limburg as the first step towards establishing a university in Limburg (Nota inzake de stichting van de medische faculteit als begin van een universiteit). It put forward four arguments – of a medical, educational, social-economic and cultural-political nature – in support of the plea for the establishment of an eighth medical faculty as the first step towards a new state university in Maastricht. First, South Limburg had a pool of patients not yet integrated into the advanced levels of the medical training system. Next, educational diffusion was needed because the young people of Limburg were entitled to equal opportunity in education. The closure of the mines, moreover, made regional economic restructuring inevitable, whereby the university would help to fuel the economy. Finally, a university in Maastricht was ‘a matter of national self-preservation’: the Netherlands desperately needed a new university with a European orientation and Maastricht was ideally located on a cultural crossroads, close to the German and French-language institutions of higher education in nearby Aachen and Liege. SWOL in fact demonstrated its eagerness and enthusiasm by having purchased a building site for the new university already, with money from several subsidies and bequests.


In April 1967 SWOL presented no fewer than three reports. In one report (De omvang van een in Limburg te stichten universiteit) it was argued that the medical curriculum had to be supplemented with social sciences curriculums. In another report (De plaats van Zuid-Limburg in een spreidingsplan voor het Wetenschappelijk Onderwijs), SWOL sought to demonstrate that the number of potential students residing in South Limburg was sufficient. In addition, SWOL issued a memo on Limburg as ‘remote corner or central region’ (Limburg: ‘Uithoek of Kernland’), written by Hendrik Brugmans, rector of the Europa College in Bruges. He held a spirited plea in favour of Maastricht: on account of the inevitable European integration, South Limburg was increasingly going to be part of a ‘new pluri-national space’: Flemish, Walloon, Dutch and German. Maastricht, according to Brugmans, was the perfect place for a European university relying on multiple languages (not just English).


In early 1968 SWOL issued more memos. In a memo on the new medical faculty (Een nieuwe medische faculteit. Bijdrage tot de discussie), Tans denounced those who criticized the plan for a new medical faculty in Maastricht because the city was located in a corner of the country and had no technological infrastructure for modern medical education (as was in place in Eindhoven and Tilburg). Tans also wrote a memo on the need for a curriculum in international affairs at a university to be set up in Limburg (Nota opleiding internationale zaken aan de nieuw te stichten universiteit in Limburg). Its two co-authors were Jos Herold, head of a Psychological Institute in Maastricht, and Willy Toonen, staff member of the Economic Technological Institute Limburg (ETIL) and secretary of SWOL. The authors observed that Limburg, given its history, had long been a border region, but that today because of new European trends it was rather developing into ‘a country without borders, open to French and German cultural influences’. Apart from the medical faculty, Maastricht should also develop a social sciences curriculum geared to European issues, multi-language education in German and French, as well as focus on international exchange of students. The authors looked in particular to nearby Hasselt, Belgium, where the ground was prepared for new academic education as well.


SWOL did not limit its activities to publishing reports. It also targeted the (regional) press to present its plea for a medical faculty in Maastricht, as first step towards a new university. It was a problem, however, that the Van Walsum Committee’s assignment was merely to answer the question of whether a new medical faculty had to be set up, and if so, where. It could not address the issue of a new social science curriculum, let alone the establishment of new university! Regardless, in March 1968 Tans also pushed Van Walsum to weigh SWOL’s arguments beyond the strictly medical domain. Tans argued that Limburg’s claim was ‘justified’: it would be wrong to deny the new medical faculty to Limburg because the province could not boast having any institution of higher education yet.”


Text: Annemieke Klijn (Assistant Professor & Curator Art and Heritage Committee, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University)
Picture: Cover Nota 1 SWOL, Maastricht ‘kernland’


Here is chapter four: ‘A divided Van Walsum Committee’.