4 June 2018 • HOP, Bas Belleman
Minister embraces internationalisation, but sees the downside of Anglicisation
Universities and universities of applied sciences should make the case for choosing English medium teaching more strongly, says Minister Van Engelshoven. That said, she still embraces Internationalisation.
The Minister of Education submitted her long awaited Vision on Internationalisation to the House of Representatives today. Universities and universities of applied sciences are happy with her letter, while student organisations are fiercely critical.
In her letter, Van Engelshoven is looking for balance. While she wants to stimulate internationalisation, she does not want to be blind to the downside. As she sums up, “I want to continue to facilitate internationalisation where it is appropriate and redress the balance where needed.” There are countless advantages to internationalisation, she says. The quality of education improves if students learn intercultural skills, and the economy is crying out for highly qualified employees.
But she sees the disadvantages too. There are concerns about the quality of English, the accessibility of degree programmes and the financial motive to accept as many foreign students as possible. The option of English language education must have added value, she believes. Otherwise degree programmes should not go down this path. “Simply translating a Dutch degree programme into English is not enough and has nothing to do with internationalisation.” One of her worries is that some degree programmes may have changed over too lightly.
Conscious language policy
Her solution is a conscious language policy. Staff and student councils should agree on the teaching medium from now on. The Inspectorate of Education will check whether academic institutions have solid ‘codes of conduct’ to check the option of English language education. Furthermore, the Accreditation Organisation of the Netherlands and Flanders (NVAO) will monitor the situation by monitoring the language level of the lecturers during the regular inspections, for example.
In the meantime, two universities (Maastricht and Twente) are dealing with court cases brought by the Beter Onderwijs Nederland (BON, Better Education Netherlands) against their English language education. The Minister does not say it in so many words, but it looks like she is trying to take the wind out of BON’s sails. The law now says that in principle teaching should be in the Dutch language. But she does not necessarily want to enforce this as long as degree programmes make considered choices.
Further, Van Engelshoven wants to give more universities and universities of applied sciences more opportunities to manage the influx of foreign students – exactly what these institutions had asked for in their own ‘internationalisation agenda’. They may, for example, reject students from outside Europe if there are too many applicants, or set a limit on the number of students in the English language stream of a degree programme (to retain accessibility for Dutch students). She will work this all out more fully.
The student organisations ISO and LSVB are critical, mainly because the Minister has said little about the costs of internationalisation. “The Minister demands everything from the research universities and universities of applied sciences when it comes to internationalisation, but she isn’t investing one red cent in it,” opines ISO Chair Rhea van der Dong. “She will even cut the budgets further in the next few years. If she really thinks internationalisation is so important and wants to do good, she will have to fork out more money.”
“Minister van Engelshoven has stopped half way,” says chair of the LSVb, Tariq Sewbaransingh. “She says that she sees the downside of Anglicisation, but doesn’t dare deal with it. The problem is that Anglicisation is partly an earnings model. We want a market regulator to make sure that Anglicisation is done for the right reasons.”
Universities and universities of applied sciences should also receive more funding, for example to allow more Dutch students to study abroad. “The Cabinet could have shown more initiative here than only saying nice words,” says Thom de Graaf, chair of The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences.
Nevertheless, the umbrella organisations are ‘fairly positive’, as The Netherlands Association of Universities of Applied Sciences puts it. After all, the Minister supports their thinking. Van Engelshoven is honouring many of their wishes by strongly encouraging internationalisation.