Bilingualism remains standard for employee participation at UG

The UG board considers the use of both Dutch and English in the employee participation process the best option for an inclusive employee participation.

‘Dutch is simply the administrative language by law, there is no way around that,’ university president Jouke de Vries told the council on Thursday. ‘But I think the way things are going in the council is a textbook example. That everyone can use the language that is easiest for them.’

In the council, documents are bilingual and council members can choose whether they speak in English or Dutch. There is always a live translator during meetings.

New language policy

In view of the upcoming new law about internationalisation, the UG is working on a new language and culture policy. The proposed policy caused confusion among participation councils in recent weeks, particularly because of a sentence stating that participation should be ‘primarily in Dutch’.

The question arose whether faculty councils where English is now primarily spoken (such as those of the faculties of economics and science and engineering) can continue to do so. According to Mathieu Paapst of the council’s science faction, that excludes Dutch staff and students.

‘The current legal requirement is that documents in the participation council must be in Dutch,’ the law professor said. ‘It’s fine that they’re also translated into English, but they have to be in Dutch.’


The use of English is allowed, provided it is expedient for people, Paapst explained. But, he also said, if a faculty council works only in English with the reasoning that it is expedient, then they’re excluding people.

‘They don’t take into account staff and perhaps students who understand English just fine, but who are not proficient in it at such a level to be able to take part in the conversation. But they should have the option to participate in the participation council.’

English and Dutch

According to Paapst, maintaining bilingualism for the participation council is the only way to actually not exclude anyone. ‘People can either make their input in Dutch, or in English. And with the presence of an interpreter and translations, everyone can participate.’

The university council is mostly in agreement with the proposal of bilingualism. However, some members did stress that the policy document should be amended word-for-word. ‘The text has now simply caused confusion,’ said Dinie Bouwman (Personeelsfractie).

It should therefore also explicitly mention the use of multilingualism. The university board promised to look at the wording.

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