The association Beter Onderwijs Nederland (Better Education Netherlands, or BON) wants to launch legal proceedings to stop the increasing use of English in higher education. According to BON, this is blazing a trail of destruction through higher education and is also against the law.

On Wednesday, Felix Huygen, board member of BON, announced the intention to launch legal proceedings in an op-ed in de Volkskrant. BON invokes article 7.2 of the Higher Education Act which states that the education and exams must be in Dutch unless it concerns a guest speaker from another country or ‘if the specific nature, structure or quality of the education or the origin of the students necessitates it’.

Quality decline

Huygen joins a long line of critics who fear a decline in the quality of higher education. Tutors and students find it less easy to express themselves in English than in their native language, whereby many of the nuances are lost.

In the universities it is estimated that sixty percent of the education programmes are fully in English, while the English language is also being introduced in higher professional education. Financial motives also play a role: by offering English language education programmes, some institutions hope to attract more (international) students.

Minister Bussemaker is concerned. Last year she announced that she wanted to have ‘a stern conversation’ with universities and universities of applied sciences that offer English-language education ‘purely and simply’ to attract international students. “If the language results in a loss of nuance and depth of the subject matter, we should stop using it,” she said in the Lower House. It is not known whether those conversations took place.

Not led by quality, but by finance

The Dutch National Students’ Association (Interstedelijk Studenten Overleg, or ISO) is interested in the result of any court case. According to ISO president Rhea van der Dong, it is an illusion to think that all education can suddenly be given in English with the quality continuing to be guaranteed. She worries that the institutions are not led by quality, but by finance: “A student from Beijing brings more money with them than a student from Bunschoten.”

BON has started a petition against the increasing use of English which has now been signed by over three hundred people.