New Study Opportunities Abroad For Public Health Master’s Degree Students

In the fall of 2019, the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences (LSMU) signed an agreement regarding the Double Degree Program (DDP) with the University of Maastricht (the Netherlands). This is the first agreement of a kind at our University, which provides an opportunity to study based on combined programs of the two Universities. DDP is not a typical joint degree program, after which a graduate usually receives only one diploma. DDP graduates are awarded two separate diplomas. In this way, the graduate obtains diplomas confirming the master’s qualification of both the Lithuanian and the prestigious Dutch University.

The University of Maastricht is a modern, yet atypical Dutch University located near the junction of the country’s borders with Belgium and Germany. It has a newly built campus, a great library, spaces for students to work in small groups and social communication. Part of the University premises is located in magnificent buildings of the old town. An important feature of the University is its internationality. About half of the students come to study from Belgium, Germany and other countries. Lecturers from abroad also make up a large part of the academic staff.

lsmu-vet-275.jpg (regular, 500x333)Currently, students of two master’s degree programs at the Faculty of Public Health (Applied Public Health and Public Health Management) have the opportunity to study in the DDP. The duration of the studies is a standard two-year period. The DDP study scheme is not complicated; during the first year, students study at LSMU following the usual study plan, and during the second year, they go to the University of Maastricht and study based on the plan of the Governance and Leadership in European Public Health program.

One of the main benefits of DDP studies is the second year of studies at the University of Maastricht. The DDP program is appealing to postgraduate students due to the following advantages: the study period remains the same, but they obtain two diplomas; there is no extra charge for tuition at the University of Maastricht; in addition, a diploma from a prestigious University is awarded; master degree students defend only one master thesis. While studying abroad, a master student acquires new skills and competencies; thus, expanding opportunities to work in European international healthcare and management sectors after graduation.

It is worth mentioning that studies at the University of Maastricht are based on a unique problem-based learning system. Such a learning method allows students to creatively combine acquired theoretical and practical knowledge and skills. A lot of time is devoted to studying in small groups, practical tasks, solving real situations, analyzing gaps in one’s general, management, leadership and health sciences skills. The uniqueness of the studies is also emphasized by the somewhat unusual combination of the internship and research module. It may be attractive to students that the master thesis does not need to be defended in an open defense session; it is sufficient to upload the thesis to the library system for the reviewer and advisor to evaluate.

Studies at the University of Maastricht are an excellent opportunity to learn about the good practice of the European Union health sector and to acquire international studies and interdisciplinary team leadership and management competencies.

Presently, due to an unfavorable epidemiological situation, three master degree students of the Faculty of Public Health studying remotely, Inesa Bikniūtė, Ieva Stankutė and Agnė Staišiūnaitė, claim that the learning process is quite intensive, but the experience gained is especially valuable: “Before each lecture, it is necessary to study a lot of literature and independently prepare for classes. The lecturers working at the University are very communicative, professional, the best specialists in their field, and are always ready to help. Moreover, studies in Maastricht give us an opportunity to communicate and meet new people from different parts of the world, connect and learn more about their culture, work and study ethics.”

In order to participate in DDP studies in Kaunas (first year) and Maastricht (second year), it is necessary to choose a master’s degree program Applied Public Health or Public Health Management. Call for the DDP is announced in September, and admission takes place in early November. Following the agreement with the University of Maastricht, each year up to five students are selected for the program. During the selection, bachelor study GPA (60%), cover letter (10%), motivational interview in English (30%) are evaluated. An additional requirement for candidates is a good ability to communicate in English and a formal confirmation thereof (test, exam scores). As stated above, the DDP study program is free of charge, students cover only the living expenses. DDP studies at the University of Maastricht are coordinated by Linas Šumskas, Professor of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Public Health, LSMU MA.
Text: Professor Linas Šumskas, lecturer Monika Grincaitė, 
Public Health Faculty, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences