In a House of Representatives committee debate last Thursday, Dijkgraaf said that a programme only counts as Dutch-language if at least two-thirds of the programme’s credits are taught in Dutch. NRC and de Volkskrant interpreted this as a ban on programmes that are fully taught in a foreign language.
The board of Erasmus University – which offers several bachelor’s programmes that are fully taught in English – argued against this interpretation. “The plans raise many questions and unease among our international students and staff to whom we attach great importance, as well as the international nature of our education”, Executive Board president Ed Brinksma said on the university’s website. “We believe that a true international classroom brings an awful lot to our students, and this should not be lost.”
Things are therefore not as bad as they are made out to be. As far as the Minister is concerned, a bachelor’s programme may still be taught in another language, including for more than a third of the credits. “There should always be room for specific programmes for the international labour market and small-scale programmes and institutions that offer education from an international perspective because of their nature, such as university colleges and certain arts programmes”, Dijkgraaf’s spokesperson wrote.
However, new programmes that wish to award more than a third of their credits in another language will be tested against criteria that are yet to be defined. In the committee debate, Dijkgraaf provided some examples. “If you want to attract the best violinists in the whole world, it might help to offer such a programme in English. Other factors should be considered as well, such as: What is the labour market perspective for graduates? Are there enough Dutch-speaking lecturers to teach the programme? And what role does the programme play in the region? After all, an English-language programme can be important for a region.” For each foreign-language programme, it will then be assessed whether funding for that programme is a prudent use of public funds.
New programmes only
The test will initially apply only to new programmes from the 2025-2026 academic year. Programmes in which less than a third of the courses are taught in English (or another language) will be considered ‘Dutch-language’ and will not need to be tested at all. At a time yet to be determined, existing bachelor’s programmes will also be tested, but not for the time being. The language requirements will only apply to bachelor’s and associate degree programmes, not to master’s programmes.
The Erasmus University offers sixteen English-language bachelor’s programmes, including Psychology, Business Administration and Communication and Media. That is almost half of all bachelor’s programmes. A number of programmes also have a Dutch variant.