Calling on the Lower House to take these steps is an initiative of Vereniging Beter Onderwijs Nederland (BON, Netherlands Association for Better Education). This is an organisation that has expressed concerns for several years now regarding the Anglicization of higher education. BON also launched and lost a lawsuit on to this issue.

Almost one-hundred professors and former professors signed the appeal, including Frits van Oostrom, Herman Pleij, Lotte Jensen and Beatrice de Graaf. Another eighty ‘writers and other prominent figures from civil society and cultural sectors’, including Frits Abrahams, Adriaan van Dis, Geert Mak, Job Cohen and Aleid Truijens also signed the appeal.

Market share

The petitioners allege that three-quarters of all master’s programmes and a growing number of bachelor’s programmes are currently offered with English as the language of instruction. In doing so, universities and universities of applied sciences are breaking the law. Legislation stipulates that Dutch is the language of instruction in higher education, unless compelling arguments can be made to deviate from that rule.

The chief reason universities and universities of applied sciences are offering more and more English-language education, according to the petitioning party, is not because of an increasingly globalising world. Instead, it’s because institutions want to attract more international students, which in turn generates more income for their coffers. “The battle for the ‘market share’ is mainly what’s driving the Anglicization of education.”

Lecturers and students often have an inadequate command of English, and this has negative repercussions for the quality and accessibility of higher education. Moreover, this development comes at the expense of the Dutch language and job opportunities for graduates in the Dutch labour market.

Out of all proportion

The petitioners state that it is ‘indisputable that English, along with Dutch, holds a prominent position in university education’. But they believe that it is now out of all proportion. “If the current trend continues, our universities will be fully Anglicized within a few years – with all the associate consequences. This means that Anglicization needs to be reversed to some degree, and this requires courage and a willingness to take action on the part of the government.”

The Lower House is being asked to critically read Minister Van Engelshoven’s ‘Taal en toegankelijkheid’ (language and accessibility) legislative proposal. According to the appeal, the legislation should effectively protect the Dutch language, set stricter conditions for offering programmes in languages other than Dutch, and ‘rejuvenate the Dutch-language programmes offered in higher education’.