I have a cat named Mina. Mina sometimes features in my classes, and even in exams. Recently, for example, I presented this following reasoning to my students: all humans are mortal, Mina is mortal, so Mina is a human being. Some students thought this reasoning was plausible, until I showed them a photo of Mina, parading across my desk.
In the evenings, especially, Mina tends to have the obnoxious habit of pattering across my laptop’s keyboard, while her tail whips carelessly against my nose. What she leaves on the screen rarely holds water. In that respect, she’s not unlike what I encounter at work.
A while ago, it was still a new thing buzzing about. Internationalisation. I attended a meeting at my faculty. Everyone and their grandmother had been rustled up. The screen showed three questions. One: is internationalisation worthy of pursuing? Two: what are the benefits? And three: how will we implement it? ‘Mina!’ I called. ‘What did you do this time?’
Sensible people voiced sensible objections. Such as that things like that cannot be achieved without incurring costs. And, some asked, wouldn’t all that be at the expense of the quality of education? Should the vocabulary of students, who will predominantly work in the Netherlands in the future, consist exclusively of English terminology? And some more reservations, and all of it, of course, in English. With a benign smile, the objections were ignored. Cold feet, that’s all.
It’s been a few years since then, and everywhere around us is abuzz with English. Everyone and their grandmother have taken language courses and the worst Dunglish has been fixed by now. In all of Utrecht, the trolley cases of the internationals roll across the cobblestones. And not just here.
From Maastricht to Groningen and from Nijmegen to Wageningen, everyone’s in favour now. Great news.
Until Minister Van Engelshoven coolly declared, this past September, that internationalisation in higher education may be a ‘great thing’, and ‘contributes to science, economy and labour market’, and that that should definitely remain that way, but that unfortunately, research also shows that the growth of the number of English-language programmes and increase of international students ‘is such that higher education is under too much pressure’.
The minister has discovered that internationalisation costs money, and that it’s not all puppies and sunshine all the time. And so, she’s introducing measures to ‘safeguard the quality and accessibility of education and to bring balance to internationalisation in higher education’.
‘Opportunist Minas’, I call those proposals, which are meant to fix the damage that was done after someone pattered carelessly all over your keyboard.
Mina wags her tail. ‘Sod off’, I tell her. She gives me a prissy look. ‘Go on, get out, I have to get to work.’