Bachelor pharmacy to become Dutch language because of internationalisation law

The English-language pharmacy bachelor programme will become largely Dutch language. The reason is the Internationalisation in Balance Act, which is likely to be implemented.

The law stipulates that a maximum of one third of the courses in a Dutch bachelor programme can be taught in another language. For bachelors that are entirely in a foreign language, which pharmacy currently is, the added value of the other language must be demonstrated. A bachelor programme can remain in English, for example, if it is essential for the professional field or if the programme risks not attracting enough students otherwise.

For pharmacy (Faculty of Science and Engineering), there is no added value. ‘Ultimately, many pharmacy students become pharmacists’, says director of education Klaas Poelstra. ‘It is important for them to be able to speak Dutch.’

Few international students

Previously, the programme became English-language to attract international students and to offer elective courses in other English-language bachelor programmes. ‘But we didn’t really get the expected influx of internationals’, says Poelstra. ‘Currently, 10 to 12 percent of our students are international, instead of the intended 30 percent.’

Although the decision to change to Dutch does not have to be made public now, the department is doing so anyway. ‘We find the uncertainty about the language of instruction to be an inconvenience’, says Poelstra. ‘Foreign students will drop out anyway if we change to Dutch. But if we keep waffling, Dutch students may also drop out.’

Less recruitment appeal

The language change is more challenging for the international staff of the bachelor programme, which constitutes almost a third of the total. Despite the fact that about 30 percent of the lectures can still be given in English, all teachers will eventually have to give lectures in Dutch.

There are objections to this, notes Poelstra. ‘Giving lectures in Dutch for hours is quite different from having a simple conversation’, he says. ‘It is inconvenient that we’ll lose recruitment appeal in this way.’

Officially, the ministry still has to decide on the language change for the pharmacy bachelor programme. ‘But that’s more of a formality’, emphasises Poelstra. ‘There is a 99 percent chance that our proposal will be approved.’ If so, the Dutch-language pharmacy bachelor programme will start in the academic year 2025-2026 at the earliest.

Uncertain situation

For the other bachelor programmes, the Faculty of Science and Engineering states that it has good arguments to continue providing them in English, says vice dean Rob Timmermans. ‘But no decisions have been made yet, neither at FSE nor at the University of Groningen as a whole, and the situation is still very uncertain.’

By the end of March, all Dutch universities must inform the Lower House about how they plan to significantly reduce the number of programmes in other languages or justify why a programme will not be offered in Dutch.

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