Dutch universities raise concerns over Cabinet's plan to reduce English instruction
The Cabinet drafted a bill in July aiming to reduce English instruction in higher education in the Netherlands. Until September 15, study programs, students, and other stakeholders could submit feedback on this bill, resulting in 210 responses. Several universities expressed concerns regarding the proposed restrictions on English-taught education and its impact on education quality.
Last academic year, about 15 per cent of all students in the Netherlands came from abroad. English is the main language of instruction of roughly 30 percent of all bachelor programmes and 80 percent of master programmes in the Netherlands.
In July, outgoing Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf drafted a bill to combat what the Cabinet considers to be an excess of internationalization of Dutch higher education. He proposes that one-third of course credits may be taught in a language other than Dutch. Another aspect of his plans is that Dutch should remain the main language at research-based and applied science universities. He also wants to require foreign students to learn Dutch.
The minister believes that the internationalization of studies at higher education institutions has gone too far. He fears that the quality of education will come under pressure due to the large influx of students from abroad. According to the minister, this leads to overcrowded lecture halls, a high workload, and a worsening of student housing situations. In addition, he noted that most international students do not stay in the Netherlands to work after graduation
In their response to the consultation, Wageningen University & Research underscored its need for English courses due to its international focus and global challenges. The university is wary of the proposed measures, seeing potential infringements on university autonomy and possible declines in educational quality.
The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (HvA) stressed the importance of international students to the Amsterdam region. The university fears potential repercussions from the new rules, including reduced appeal for international collaborations and unclear criteria for English-taught courses.
The University of Leiden also opposed the bill, suggesting it jeopardizes the quality and availability of education and could have long-term adverse effects on the economy and society.
The Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) expressed reservations about limiting English instruction. Shifting to Dutch-taught courses might discourage top international educators, potentially affecting educational quality. They notably argued for exceptions for their technical courses.
Delft University of Technology responded by suggesting that the decision regarding the language of instruction for a specific course should rest with the respective departments.
The University of Maastricht supported the measures, highlighting the value of teaching Dutch to international students and vice versa.
The Dutch employer's federation VNO-NCW also responded to the consultation, criticising the bill's effectiveness and potential implementation, fearing unintended negative impacts on the Netherlands as a knowledge hub and economy.