23 June 2023, by Victoria Séveno

In an attempt to combat the “internationalisation” of universities in the Netherlands, the Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science, Robbert Dijkgraaf, has announced a new policy which would limit the number of Bachelor’s courses being taught in a language other than Dutch.

Dutch government will limit use of English to combat internationalisation

Over the past several months, Dijkgraaf has faced increasing pressure from parliament to take action and limit the number of internationals coming to study in the Netherlands. Last autumn, MPs called on Dutch universities to stop actively recruiting students from abroad, and suggested that a cap might be necessary – a suggestion that faced backlash from a number of institutions

Now, Dijkgraaf has presented a new plan: from the 2025 / 2026 academic year onwards, universities in the Netherlands will be required to teach at least two-thirds of annual Bachelor’s credits in Dutch. Exceptions are possible, but academic institutions will have to submit a request to the Dutch government and must be able to prove that teaching a course in English adds value to the programme.

While Dutch law already states that education in the Netherlands should be taught in Dutch, Dijkgraaf feels that the exceptions stipulated by current legislation allow for too many loopholes, meaning that a high number of courses are offered in English. Instead, he’d like to set quantifiable language requirements for higher education institutions.

Dijkgraaf working to overhaul higher education in the Netherlands

Dijkgraaf’s proposed policy changes are currently being drafted, and are expected to be presented before the end of the summer. Addressing the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), the minister also explained that he’d like to introduce requirements for international students to learn Dutch outside of their studies. 

While these changes are largely being brought about in an attempt to reduce overcrowding at Dutch universities and limit the strain on the student housing market, Dijkgraaf and MPs hope that by encouraging internationals to learn at least a little Dutch, they might be more prepared to work in the Netherlands after graduation – which should help to combat the national worker shortage

Dijkgraaf did, however, acknowledge the “elephant in the room”: reducing the number of international courses – and thereby international students – will also reduce funding for universities, as international students pay higher tuition fees than Dutch students. 

Thumb: robert coolen via Shutterstock.com.

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