60 anniversary HMSM

Dutch or English? KNAW recommends trade- offs in language policy in higher education | 02 October 2017

Recently a report was published by the KNAW (Royal Dutch Academy of Science) about language policy in Dutch Higher Education. Our colleague Ankie Hoefnagels represented Zuyd UAS in the applied sciences panel. Below, please find a number of findings and recommendations from the report.

The report presents a clear overview of costs and benefits, opportunities and risks of English language or bi-lingual studies in Higher Education and inventories the effects of language policy on education content, quality and language skills. The committee sees the advantages in the light of the international orientation of the Netherlands and the beneficial influence on the quality of courses. But it is also aware of the anxiety in many segments of education about the ‘anglification’ of education.

The committee distinguishes three types of arguments that determine the choice of English and/or Dutch: arguments related to internationalisation and educational quality (e.g. faculties operate in an international playing field in which students are educated as world citizens) arguments related to labour market and professional field and economical arguments (e.g. competition, recruiting the best students). Every university and faculty needs to trade off these arguments in their choices.

On the basis of their research, the committee sketches a number of scenarios (HMSM currently meets the scenario: Bachelor differentiated, Master in English). A number of recommendations are made for the further development of language policy at university and faculty level:

  • Make a conscious choice for the language of instruction on the basis of the course objectives, the degree of international mobility, the content and quality of education, the progress of students and preparation for a (diverse, international) labour market;
  • Embed the choice for a language of instruction in a supportive language and internationalisation policy aimed at the didactical aspects of providing education in a different language;  
  • Provide the conditions for a well-functioning international classroom and invest in the integration of international students and their contacts with Dutch students, in intercultural skills for both students and staff and in didactical skills for teachers;  
  • Make sure that language on the workfloor, in management and participation boards allows effective participation of all stakeholders involved;
  • Facilitate the ongoing development of language skills (in English and Dutch) for students and staff;
  • Optimize the assessment of and feedback on exams and written products that are written in a different language;
  • Stimulate the didactic evaluation and peer review of content and quality of education, while preventing further bureaucracy.

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