Internationalisation starts with clear language policy

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University council-member Vincent de Haes thinks the Utrecht University is too busy acting like an international university, instead of actually being one. The student Global Sustainability pleads that the UU should start at the beginning: a good language policy.

Read in Dutch

The executive 4 year plan for how Utrecht University will become a warm and welcoming, international university is only available in Dutch. It is ironic that those who are being “warmly welcomed” (international students and researchers) can't understand how the university is planning to do this. Though this is a single example, it clearly lays out the problem of Utrecht University’s priorities in internationalisation. There is a large investment in public image and attracting international students and researchers, but communication is forgotten. While thise is a requirement to profit from internationals.

Communication as basis of inclusiveness
All staff and students at Utrecht University have a lot to gain from a more international UU. Broadening your global perspective and understanding the world beyond your own context is vital for both researchers and students in the increasingly globalising world. The Executive Board understands this. 

But an essential condition to become an international organization is to be inclusive to international staff and students. Communicating in English is vital for creating an inclusive climate. The University cannot focus on attracting international staff or dealing with the steady growth of international students if it ignores the fact those it wants to attract cannot communicate within the organization.

Not a lot of support for policy makers
Currently, Utrecht University has no clear policy on what or how documents are translated to English. Policy makers working on important memos, plans or communication messages must decide themselves if they want to include an English version. Secondly, the only resources they receive are a list of translation companies to contact on the UU intranet. The costs for the translations must be taken from the budget allocated for the project, memo, or policy they are working on. Or they must make a specific request from an “unforeseen” account.

Considering these financial barriers, and the lack of top-down inspiration, it is no surprise that many policy makers decide not to translate their documents unless specifically requested by international students or student participation bodies.

A little too late...
Although seven lines on language policy have been included within the executive plan on internationalization published on October 8th, it is too little too late. It still does not define what documents are translated, who will do this, or within what timeframe it needs to be done. It merely states the fact that better coordination is necessary and that there are (limited) funds available. It is not warm and welcoming, it is the cold bare minimum. International students deserve the information they need to communicate with the UU. They deserve to receive the information at the same time as Dutch students, instead of more than a month later like with the UU accomodation plans.

I believe a clear, progressive language policy will lead to an inclusive environment for both students and staff, which I believe staff, students and the executive board want. Let’s prioritize language policy, because once there is language policy we can start working on becoming a warm and welcoming university for all international staff and students that will benefit everyone.

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