UG critical and concerned over government’s plans against anglicisation at universities

The UG is critical of education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf’s proposal to curb the anglicisation of bachelor programmes over the next two years.

According to board president Jouke de Vries, the government is trying to use language to limit the influx of international students. ‘They tried the same thing in Denmark, and part of those measures have already been overturned’, he says.

‘The Dutch universities will have to band together and have a serious conversation with the minister in an effort to agree on equitable measures.’


Dijkgraaf wants universities to limit the number of courses in a foreign language at Dutch bachelor programmes to a third by the 2025-2026 academic year. They’ll have to get approval if they want an entire bachelor to be in a foreign language. The university will have to prove the benefits of teaching the programme in a foreign language.

Dijkgraaf said all this in a Lower House debate on internationalisation in higher education last week. While nothing is set in stone yet, the minister’s ideas are of great concern to the university.


Various faculties have openly expressed these concerns. This week, the faculties of spatial sciences, arts, economy and business, and law wrote a letter to their staff to share their concerns.

‘We are an exceedingly international faculty and we’d like to make it clear that we care about our employees’, says Peter Verhoef, dean at the Faculty of Economics and Business (FEB). ‘The direction the minister is potentially looking to go in constitutes a limitation we’re very worried about.’

Three out of four study programmes at FEB are in English, which could pose a problem. ‘Because the exact consequences aren’t clear yet, there’s a lot of uncertainty’, says Verhoef.

Diverse society

People aren’t freaking out as much at the Faculty of Behavioural and Social Science (BSS), says vice dean HIlda Amsing. ‘Our situation is a little different, since much of our educational activities are in Dutch. All our bachelor programmes are available in Dutch as well’, she says.

Nevertheless, she is concerned as well. ‘Internationalisation is important to us, because we train our people in social sciences and they end up working in society. And our society is very diverse. It’s important that students learn how to handle different perspectives. The university’s international aspects are instrumental in that.’

Added value

They’re not exceptionally worried at the Faculty of Science and Engineering (FSE), says dean Joost Frenken. ‘It’s a matter of perspective’, he says. ‘We have seventeen bachelor programmes and twenty-four masters. Only one of those forty-one programmes isn’t in English. The way it’s looking now, the limitations don’t apply to programmes that are entirely in English.’

He thinks it won’t be a problem to prove the added value of the current programmes being in English. ‘In our courses, research is part of an international race towards discovery. That happens in conjunction with foreign partners. Think of large projects that involve big equipment, such as CERN. That requires investments worth millions, the Netherlands could never pay for that on its own. We have to collaborate on that kind of research. It would be ridiculous to train our scientists in Dutch.’

The same applies to graduates who decide to go into business, says Frenken. ‘ASML (editor’s note: a Dutch high-tech company that makes equipment for the semi-conductor industry) for instance, hires a lot of people who graduates from FSE. The working language there is English. So even if you go into business in the Netherlands, you still have to be proficient in English.’


Even though the people at FSE appear not to be concerned, the current developments do affect whether or not people feel welcome here, says Frenken. ‘You can feel the rise of xenophobia in the Netherlands’, he says. ‘Some people feel that we’re overrun by foreigners who are only here for their own gain. It’s a bunch of rabble-rousing.’

Faculties and the board of directors have opted to send a show of support to their staff members. ‘We want to make it clear how much we appreciate you as part of our scientific community’, the FEB board writes in the letter.

‘We’re proud of our international community. I fully understand the concerns the (international) members of our community might have because of the recent debates’, Jouke de Vries says.

However, the board members also acknowledge it’s high time for a way to at least somewhat curb the influx of international students.


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