Dutch language used less and less at universities

A lecture hall at UU. Photo: DUB

This is the conclusion reached by Taalunie, the Union for the Dutch Language, in a research report (published only in Dutch). Almost half of the Dutch-speaking students interviewed (48.5 percent) use both Dutch and English in their study programme, while 14.3 percent are taught only in English, and less than a third (28.1 percent) do everything in Dutch.

English language
According to Taalunie, the upsurge of English in higher education can be seen across many fields. Not only the lessons are increasingly being given in English, but the study materials comprise content in English more and more as well. There has also been a decline in the use of Dutch for communicating with lecturers and fellow students in comparison with 2016.

No problem
Dutch students do not seem to worry too much about it. The majority of them (61 percent) do not think it's a probem that languages other than Dutch are being used to teach subjects not related to language. In Friesland, where people are used to speaking Frisian alongside Dutch, even more people (76 percent) are in favour, although they undoubtedly also have the Frisian language in mind. According to Tallunie, these “predominantly positive attitudes regarding other languages in higher education” will contribute to the upsurge in English in higher education in the Netherlands.

Universities of applied sciences
At the universities of applied sciences, however, the picture is different: most students (68 percent) are studying entirely in Dutch. But because only a small number of students in higher professional education took part in the survey, Taalunie has reservations about that percentage.

In Surinam, too, the Dutch language maintains a “reasonably strong position” in higher education. About 64 percent of students say it is the only language they need in their study programme.

The anglicisation of higher education has long been the subject of a heated debate in the Netherlands. A bill forcing educational institutions to demonstrate the added value of teaching in English is currently awaiting approval in the Senate. According to this bill, if universities are unable to prove the added value of teaching in English, they have to revert to Dutch. But it will only be discussed once a new cabinet is formed.