Seemingly Absurd Code of Conduct Regarding Language Use Published

Seemingly Absurd Code of Conduct Regarding Language Use Published

WUAS has released its 'Code of Conduct for the Use of the English Language', as required by law, which is now enforced to counter 'anglicisation' of Dutch Higher Education

WUAS has released its 'Code of Conduct for the Use of the English Language', as required by law. This follows recent discussions in the media and in parliament about the anglicisation of Dutch Higher Education.

Peter Birdsall, Wittenborg's Chair

Dutch Purists and the International HE Money Thing

"According to some Dutch purists there are simply too many English-taught degree programmes at Dutch universities," Wittenborg's Chair, Peter Birdsall, states. He goes on to explain that the debate has reached the government and that there are measures lying in wait to curb the numbers of international students and international programmes at Dutch universities.

"It is simply a money thing - Dutch universities are keen to attract as many international students as possible, and to offer the programmes in two languages costs too much money. EU students bring substantial parts of the funding, as they are fully paid for by the Dutch tax-payer, and non-EU students are a lucrative business as they pay much higher fees. Especially Dutch research universities are attracting many non-EU students who are actually only qualified for degree programmes at applied sciences universities, which have lower entry requirements compared to these high-ranked universities. Financial incentive is encouraging these top universities to teach in English and recruit unqualified non-EU students through agents… and now we are all subject to scrutiny."

Recently, WUAS received a letter from the Dutch Ministry of Education Inspectorate, in which was highlighted the fact that Wittenborg has not published a code of language use. The Act of Higher Education states that Dutch state-governed (appointed and accredited) universities are primarily obliged to offer their degrees in Dutch, and if they offer English-taught degrees, that they require a Code of Conduct explaining why.

This recently published part of the WUAS Education and Examination Guides (EEGs), called the Code of Conduct for Use of the English Language at WUAS, has been approved by the Stichting WUAS Executive Board on the basis of article 7.2, sub-paragraph c, of the Higher Education and Research Act of the Netherlands (Wet op het hoger onderwijs en wetenschappelijk onderzoek (WHW).



WUAS recently published its internationality statistics, which showed that students represented 97 nationalities in 2018 and staff over 40, which means that there are over 100 nationalities studying and working at Wittenborg at any given moment.

This internationality fact is the main underpinning of the code, in which Wittenborg highlights some basic facts:

  • 2/3 of the WUAS executive board is non-Dutch.
  • 85% of WUAS students are non-Dutch.
  • Over 50% of WUAS staff are non-Dutch.
  • WUAS students & staff represent more than 100 different nationalities.
  • Since 2006, WUAS has submitted all its NVAO accreditations in English, all panels have been composed of international members, reports have been written in English, and NVAO essentially accredits WUAS programmes in English. All WUAS programme documentation, accreditation documents, publications, internal documents, quality system documents, financial documents, reports and procedures are written in English.
Seemingly Absurd Code of Conduct Regarding Language Use Published


The code highlights Wittenborg's Mission Statement themes of 'Internationalisation, Diversity & Ethics', referring to internationalisation as the driving factor of its mission:

'WUAS sees its role as the education and training of highly qualified, internationally minded, socially responsible and intercultural, critical and independently thinking graduates, who engage in innovative and creative business in companies and organisations around the world, either working for others or in the instigation of business and entrepreneurship. Wittenborg embraces internationalisation as a key value.'

According to Birdsall, "Our Mission statement says that Wittenborg’s outlook is global, and it aims to maintain its independent status whilst being one of the most international and diverse higher education institutions in the Netherlands. Achieving that by teaching in Dutch is an absurdity, and our Code of Conduct has some traits of Monty Python, but also the letter we received reminds me of my uncle Timothy's cartoon in which he depicted the {UK} state controlling the freedom of Higher Education."

Birdsall re-iterates that internationalisation is essential for the Netherlands and global society as a whole. "Controlling the very internationalisation in Dutch Higher Education is not the key, the key is ensuring ethical practice in student recruitment and transparency."

The full Code of Conduct for the Use of English Language at WUAS can be found here:

PART 12b - Code of Conduct Language WUAS

WUP 25/4/2019
by James Wittenborg
©WUAS Press