For over a decade, we’ve been training Asian professionals on the latest developments in social protection. Led by the Universities of Heidelberg, Germany and Hanoi, Vietnam, the International Social Protection Studies Programme also has a Maastricht-based module: covering policy management, monitoring and evaluation. Every other year since 2007, a group of participants has joined us in Maastricht for around 5-6 weeks.
A few years ago, discussions began on how to transform the course into a fully-fledged Master programme. As participants invest over a year of their time, obtaining a degree was considered an absolute value added – especially for mid-career professionals who often have family responsibilities as well.
How is the current Master programme designed?
The programme is structured around three semesters. The first and last semester can be followed in Vietnam or Indonesia, but the second semester is always held in Europe (as per the original training programme). Participants therefore have at least one semester of training – a solid academic basis in social protection – before coming to Europe.
The courses in Europe are rather advanced in nature, designed to deepen knowledge and broaden global perspectives. In the third semester participants follow another specialisation course, and write their research thesis. Ultimately, the programme leads to a joint degree from the local Asian university and the University of Heidelberg. Our contribution is part of the latter and fully accredited in the final degree.
How does this programme differ from our own Master in Public Policy and Human Development (MPP)?
Our MPP is a Dutch-accredited Master programme, which lasts for one academic year. Students join us in Maastricht on a full-time, face-to-face basis and, where successful, obtain a double degree from both Maastricht University and the United Nations University. We offer a first semester in policy design and analysis, and a specialisation option in Social Protection Policy, for one semester. While there is some overlap in content, our MPP does not allow participants to work remotely.
How do you find teaching participants from Vietnam and Indonesia?
We’re a very international institution, and our student population is global. One of our missions is to assist in global development, and training people from the Global South contributes directly to this mission. People willing to travel far, leaving behind families for longer periods, are often very motivated students. They give up a lot to come to Europe to learn, and teaching them inspires our teachers.
On top of that, past cohorts have always been very social groups. They’ve brought such energy and enthusiasm to all our classes, excursions, and exercises – it’s always a pleasure to host them. We very much look forward to receiving the next group in 2019.
The opinions expressed here are the author’s own; they do not necessarily reflect the views of UNU.
UNU / Herman Pijpers