Dutch Dump Degrees in English, Cut International Enrolments

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University College Utrecht is entirely English-medium

The Netherlands’ Minister of Education, Ingrid van Engelshoven, told the Dutch Parliament in September to expect draft legislation aimed at limiting the growth in international student enrolments and the proliferation of English-medium degree courses. Government funding for international marketing will also be slashed.

There are currently some 85,000 ‘internationals’ in Dutch higher education – 11.5 per cent of the total student body, double the proportion of a decade ago. At the start of the current academic year, 28 per cent of all bachelor degrees and 78 per cent of all master’s courses in the Netherlands were taught in English.

Commenting on the publication of her Further Report on Draft Legislation on Language and Accessibility, Engelshoven said, “The growth in the total number of English-medium courses and international students is such that higher education is being put under too much pressure. I am therefore taking measures to protect the quality of education and access.”

The report notes, “there is a a direct link between funding, attracting foreign students and language policy,” while the current higher education funding system perpetuates an, “impulse to attract as many students as possible.” It recommends putting up fees for non-EU students.

Students from outside the EU will henceforth be charged at least €7,612 a year for a bachelor’s course, or €29,452 per year for a masters, according to the Science Guide website. Government-funded Holland Scholarships for international students will be cut, while the number of scholarships for Dutch students going abroad will double.

Nuffic, the organisation for international education, which receives around €20 million in Ministry of Education funding, was told in July to expect deep budget cuts. Its Netherlands Education Support Offices, located in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Turkey, Vietnam, Russia, South Africa and South Korea, are set to close.

The Ministers’ report also references Parliament’s concerns over the “disadvantages” of the internationalisation, saying, the quality of the nations’ higher education “would suffer from the limited English proficiency of teachers and students”. English-medium courses are also felt to limit access to education for Dutch students.

There could now be maximum quotas for enrolment on English-medium courses, where there is strong demand, and in some cases a cap on the English version of a course, but not on its Dutch-language variant.

The Education Act states higher education, “shall in principle be in Dutch”. Institutions that offer courses in English will now have to demonstrate the “added value” of their courses being English-medium – such as the demands of the labour market or particular professions. Van Engelshoven also said some courses will have to be revert to being taught in Dutch again.

The future of the all English-medium Liberal Arts programmes offered at specialist University Colleges is unclear.

There are also plans to require institutions to promote the Dutch proficiency of all students. Foreign students will be offered Dutch language courses, Van Engelshoven told NRC newspaper. These will be optional and to an as-yet-to-be-determined level. Van Engelshoven’s Further Report, though, mentions possible changes to legislation to include contributions from students towards the costs of language tests.

(Translations from the Dutch by Matt Salusbury.)

Image courtesy of UCU
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Matt Salusbury
News editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also an activist in the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.