Proposed Dutch Language Policy Causes Stir Among International Professors at UTwente

Proposed Dutch Language Policy Causes Stir Among International Professors at UTwente

Potential measures to limit international students may have fall-out effects for foreign educators

Members of University Twente's Executive Board have flagged that potential incoming measures to limit the number of international students at public universities may have unintended implications for foreign educators, who often lecture in English or only speak mid-level Dutch. While the board supports incorporating more Dutch at the school, they caution education policymakers to be realistic and to find a 'middle ground’ in their measures to limit foreign student intake. This comes following a letter submitted to Prime Minister Marke Rutte by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Robbert Dijkgraaf, outlining proposed measures to reduce the international student intake, save for at private institutions like Wittenborg. The Executive Board nevertheless commended Dijkgraaf for his comprehensive approach and noted that the letter still left room for interpretation.

While Dijkgraaf called for Dutch to become more prominent in public higher education, and for all international students to learn Dutch, he did not specify at which level students should speak the language. Executive Board President Vinod Subramaniam noted that despite English being the official language of instruction at University Twente, the school is functionally bilingual, and that the Executive Board will review their language policy. Subramaniam, who hails from India, pondered what the implications of switching to Dutch would have on international educators, which often comprise a significant portion of lecturers at Dutch public institutions, and wonders at which level foreign educators will be required to speak Dutch. He warns that expecting foreign lecturers to be able to speak Dutch at C2 level, the highest of all, is not realistic, citing his own experience of having been in the country for nearly 20 years but still not being able to speak the language at C2 level.

His sentiments were echoed by University Twente's rector magnificus and fellow Executive Board member Tom Veldkamp. He says that language requirements for foreign staff must not be too high so as to remain realistic, and states that the school will not test people, nor will they put language requirements into the contract of employees. Veldkamp argues that the choice of language should ultimately remain with the study programme itself, and was opposed to central regulation in that area, as Dijkgraaf had proposed. Despite this, Subramaniam affirmed that the school is facing a ‘new reality’ and would try to stay open to changes in the future.

WUP 14/06/2023
by Olivia Nelson
©WUAS Press