The Young Academy:

‘Polarised debate on internationalisation is a threat to science’

Internationalisering. Foto: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

Thursday, the Young Academy responded to the "Internationalisation in Equilibrium" bill, with which the Minister of Education, Robbert Dijkgraaf, wishes to address the sharp increase in the number of international students. In the future, new Bachelor’s programmes will have to provide a good reason to teach in a foreign language. The government will be the one assessing requests.    

However, the bill does not explain the criteria to secure approval clearly enough, the Young Academy finds. A lot will depend on how the next government will implement the new policy. Given manifestos like that of the New Social Contract party, it’s possible that the use of foreign languages in higher education will be severely restricted. 

The Young Academy is also worried about what impression the tone of the debate is making on international colleagues. “They perform invaluable work in our society and should, in turn, feel very welcome and appreciated within our institutions.” The group believes that language is an inadequate and inefficient tool to tackle potential problems associated with the growing number of students. What should be leading is that “internationalisation is a vital pillar of academia”. Thanks to its international orientation, higher education can attract and retain talent worldwide, which benefits all kinds of sectors in the Netherlands. 

A new government would also do well to realise that higher education in the Netherlands is densely populated by international scientists. Most of them have not been given the opportunity to learn proper Dutch by their employer, which means teaching in that language is often out of the question. Switching to Dutch as the language of instruction would therefore have major consequences for the composition of the workforce. For institutions with a strong international orientation, this would mean a significant increase in the workload of Dutch colleagues. 

The Young Academy wants to persuade politicians that quality and accessibility have to be leading in the choice of a language of instruction. “In so doing, we will unreservedly support and safeguard the international profile of academia, opposing politically motivated threats to its existence.”