As of 1 January, Universiteit Twente has become the first university in the Netherlands to implement English as its official working language. According to NRC, this means that “Lectures, examinations, application procedures, press releases, and promotional materials are only offered in English. The university also requires staff and students to address each other in this language at the supermarket and at the coffee machines on campus.”

This decision came after Beter Onderwijs Nederland Foundation (“Better Education Netherlands”, or BON) – an education association – challenged the Universities of Twente and Maastricht in court in 2018 for their use of English language, explaining in a press release that “Because the vast majority of Dutch students end up in a Dutch-speaking professional practice, it is of great importance that they learn to master Dutch at a high level. This will not happen with largely English-language education.”

BON lost the case to the universities but the Higher Education Inspectorate agreed that “substantiation of the language policy and the code of conduct required by law was practically absent.” NRC reports that Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven (Education, D66) admonished the lack of language policy at the beginning of last year as “unacceptable.” In response, the Universiteit Twente has implemented the new English language policy which the communication department claims is about ‘diversity and inclusiveness’.

The decision has been met with harsh criticism such as that from Nijmegen professor of Dutch Studies, Lotte Jensen, who says in her Volkskrant column that the universities’ switch to English is “the upside-down world” because anyone who comes to study or work in the Netherlands should learn Dutch. She adds, “Signage? Put Dutch on top and the English translation below. Not the other way around!”

Twitter responses to the decision have also been generally negative, such as the comment, “…Let them learn to speak Dutch first,” by user Wim Knol and, “Giving communication sciences in the Netherlands in English… the University of Twente is crazy!”

Featured Image: Pollus Fornerod [CC BY-SA]