Small-scale and international

Maastricht University (UM) is known for its Problem-Based Learning system and international orientation. Our small-scale ‘international classroom’ brings together people from all over the world who have different backgrounds and perspectives. And it’s these very differences that make the UM learning experience unique. We distinguish ourselves with a challenging learning environment with small and interactive group sessions. Students get to know each other and broaden their social network by working together. They are also encouraged to actively participate in discussions in the educational groups. With better learning results as a result. 

Our students on Problem-Based Learning

Our students on Problem Based Learning - UK - interactive

UM’s Vision on Education

The main mission of education at Maastricht University (UM) was, is and will be the integrated academic and professional development of the student. Teaching and learning therefore focus on both the academic and personal development of the student.

Education at UM is based on four pillars:

  1. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) 
  2. Small-scale education
  3. International 
  4. Societal relevance

 Please read the Vision on Education of Maastricht University and our Quality agreements. Or learn more about UM's vision on education in this interactive video. Students and lecturers talk about their experiences.

Problem Based Learnng

Problem-Based Learning  

Since its founding in 1976, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) has been the backbone of education at UM. Placing the learning process of the student firmly at the center through the PBL approach is the core of UM’s educational vision.

Our educational principles create a way of learning that differs from traditional university education. Under the supervision of a tutor, students work together in a small team to tackle real-life challenges: an active way of learning that gives students better retention of knowledge, enhances their motivation and encourages them to develop skills that are essential for the labour market in the 21st century.
In essence, PBL revolves around four learning principles: constructive, contextual, collaborative, and self-directed learning (CCCS).

To support and strengthen the CCCS learning principles, we interweave research and technology into our education. The integration of research and education is a leitmotiv throughout the study programme, starting at an early stage. By engaging students in existing research, be it disciplinary of interdisciplinary, we facilitate integrated learning and synthesize knowledge and skills as well as prepare the groundwork for future learning. Next to research, applying technological innovation is the other thread on the spinning wheel of our education, helping us prepare for the future of personalised and flexible learning and at the same time contributing positively to the CCCS education principles. But, as enriching as technology may be, our education is campus-based for an optimal academic and social connection.

 Read more about Problem-Based Learning

  Fast facts

  in PBL you decide, together with your fellow group members, what knowledge you will need
  your group is supervised and guided by a tutor or lecturer
  you learn skills that will stand you in good stead later
  you engage actively with the subject matter, enabling you to absorb it better
  PBL has been at the heart of UM ever since the university was founded
 complex problem solving is the number 1 skill for your future, according to the World Economic Forum

Education at Maastricht University

Small-scale education

Inextricably linked to PBL, small scale education is another pillar of our education: a challenging learning environment with small and interactive team sessions as distinctive characteristic. This not only enables students to socialize and get to know fellow students and work together, but also encourages students to participate in discussions in tutorial meetings. Small scale in all its facets contributes to better learning outcomes.

Whether you do projects, have teaching groups or work in the lab: at UM, the basic principle is that education is small-scale. This keeps you in close contact with your fellow students and your teachers, so you feel at home faster.

  Fast Facts

  Small interactive groups of up to 15 students
  Teachers approachable
  Feel at home faster
  Lots of formal and informal learning spaces


Maastricht University (UM) is proud of its international study body. More than 50% of our students come from abroad, making UM the most international university in the Netherlands.

The majority of our programmes embrace international themes and are taught either entirely or partly in English. Our academic staff are also highly diverse, with over 40% coming from abroad. Further, each year UM welcomes over 1,000 foreign exchange students, while approximately 40% of our own students participate in study-abroad programmes. Thanks to our many partner universities, Maastricht University puts the world at your feet.

International Classroom
To make best use of this diversity, UM has embraced the concept of the ‘international classroom’ (ICR). The learning process benefits when students work in small tutorial groups with people from different cultural backgrounds: by approaching problems from a variety of perspectives, students are acquainted with different ways of seeing things that enhance the quality of the discussion. In this way, the ‘international classroom’ serves to prepare students for the rapidly changing and globalising market.

ICR is an educational concept that goes hand in hand with PBL. By combining our small-scale PBL with the ICR, and adding Global Citizenship Education, students and teachers of different origins and with different nationalities and cultural backgrounds come together in small teams to discuss social challenges. These discussions are enriched by the widely diverse backgrounds and perspectives. In this diverse and inclusive environment, students not only develop knowledge and skills, but also intercultural competences and international understanding.

 Read more about International

  Fast facts

  Over 50% of our students and more than 40% of academic staff come from abroad
  With over 100 nationalities, UM is home to the most international student body in the Netherlands
  Approx. 40% of our students go on an exchange: the highest percentage of all Dutch universities
  Over 1,000 incoming exchange students
  Diversely composed PBL tutor groups

Societal relevance

Within our education programmes, both Dutch and English taught, we equip students with important 21st century skills, such as analytical thinking, complex problem solving and teamwork, so they can contribute in our role as a socially responsible university.

UM links the content of its programmes with academic research, labor market demands and to societal challenges (e.g. the SDG’s), both on a regional, national, European and global level. UM creates value for society, together with public and private partners, to improve the well-being of citizens in our region and beyond. The Brightlands campuses are exemplary for this ambition: by offering education on the Brightlands campuses and connecting our students with the Brightlands-community, we create a natural interaction between Maastricht University and Brightlands.

  Read more about Societal relevance 

  Fast facts

  UM recognises the importance of voluntary work and wants to support students in doing so
  UM wants to improve the well-being of people in the region and beyond
  curricula and research focused on international themes
  special internationalisation hallmark (CeQuint)
  400+ international partnerships
  UM is the ninth best young university in the world

Excellence and honours programmes

Within UM's vision on education you can participate in excellence and honours programmes, join a student or study association or take a language course at the Language Centre, for instance. You can also participate in activities that will increase your chances in the labour market, such as training courses and workshops or even drawing up a career plan during your studies.

In addition to these study-related activities, there are many other activities and student initiatives that students can engage in both within and outside the university, such as the Refugee Project Maastricht, MATCH and the ImpactLab

UM STEM programmes

UM offers science, technology and engineering and mathematics (STEM)* education in various fields, and we do it just a little differently from others. We have the only natural science programme in the liberal arts and sciences tradition in the Netherlands, where undergraduate students can create their own curriculum by combining courses in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics; Maastricht Science Programme.

In the bachelor programme Data Science and Artificial Intelligence you can gain valuable work experience through the honours programme KE@Work. Here you spend 50% of your time on education and 50% working in businesses (like Vodafone and Medtronic) on academically challenging business cases.

In addition, some of our teaching is done on the Brightlands Chemelot Campus in Geleen, among the offices of many of Limburg’s industrial leaders. How will our students make a difference in the future? That's what drives our curriculum.

*In Dutch this is known as ‘bèta’

Education innovation: EDLAB

At Maastricht University, we are continually working to improve our PBL educational methodology and to come up with new and innovative educational concepts. We even have an office that is exclusively dedicated to educational innovation: EDLAB. EDLAB is responsible for supporting UM instructors in teaching, coming up with new teaching methods, helping UM instructors and examination committees improve assessment procedures, and managing Maastricht University’s excellence programmes.

 Read more about EDLAB   




Maastricht University (UM) has built a solid reputation, and is today considered one of the best young universities in the world. UM consistently earns top positions in various national and international rankings.

If you’re still figuring out where you want to study and want to compare the programmes offered at multiple universities, then it’s good to know how the programmes and universities score in national and international rankings. Or if you’re looking into becoming a researcher or applying for a position as a lecturer, for example, the national and international rankings can provide useful information. It’s also helpful to know how the quality of a programme or university is assessed by national and international accreditation organisations.

 Read more about rankings and accreditations.

UM is the 10th best Young University in the world

Times Higher Education 2024 Young Universities Ranking

Distinctive quality feature for internationalisation

European Consortium for Accreditation in higher education (ECA)