‘As a university we have for years been asking for instruments to be able to adjust the excessive growth of large, popular programmes. Because it leads to excessive workloads for lecturers and overcrowded lecture halls, among other things. And without such instruments it almost impossible to guarantee the accessibility of our programmes for Dutch students. However, during the debate the minister also made strong statements about the language of instruction, which will have consequences for our staff, students and ultimately the quality of our education and research. That is deeply concerning,’ says President of the Executive Board Geert ten Dam.
Minister Dijkgraaf and a large part of the House of Representatives believe that there is currently too much uncertainty surrounding the criteria for programmes’ language of instruction, which is why Dijkgraaf wants to introduce stricter requirements. The starting point is that Dutch is the language of instruction, but with room for another language in the curriculum. In Dijkgraaf’s view, the allowance for this other language should extend to one-third of the modules in a Bachelor’s programme taught in Dutch. Exceptions would be possible, but it is not yet clear on which grounds.
Ten Dam: ‘It is good that measures such as the possibility of a cap on just the English-language track of a programme are being introduced. But it now seems that the minister also wants to use language as an instrument to limit the influx of international students. If the vast majority of Bachelor’s programmes eventually have to revert to being taught in Dutch, that’s not only impractical but will also affect the quality of our education. We attach great value to the international character of our education. Moreover, we want to attract the best scientists, and they do not all come from the Netherlands.’
Assessment of education in other languages
Minister Dijkgraaf wants to assess both new and existing bachelor's programmes taught in languages other than Dutch. The proficiency in the Dutch language by both international staff and students is also a cause for concern; universities need to address this further.
Ten Dam: ‘As a university, we want to take our own responsibility to resolve the issues, and hopefully, the long-awaited legal instruments will help us do that. We, the Board and the deans, will closely monitor the developments and try to make adjustments where necessary. In the meantime, we are preparing for various scenarios and we will further support our international staff and students in mastering the Dutch language.’
It will take some time before any measures come into effect. The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (UNL) will discuss the details with the Ministry of Education in the coming months. The online consultation of the law will take place between mid-July and mid-September. Afterwards, the bill will go to the House of Representatives, the Council of State, and finally the Senate for approval. The intended start date is the academic year 2025-2026 at the earliest