MAASTRICHT/THE NETHERLANDS. After years of columns and debates, the association 'Beter Onderwijs Nederland (BON, or Better Education Netherlands)' has filed a lawsuit to stop the advance of English in higher education: the association feels that no other study programmes should be allowed to be taught in English until more thought has been given to the desirability of this trend. Last week, they filed a lawsuit against two universities (Maastricht and Twente) that offer a large number of programmes in English, as well as against the Education Inspectorate, which should uphold the law more strictly. Verdict will be given on 6 July.
The case against the Education Inspectorate has already been dropped; it appeared in court that they have meanwhile started an investigation into anglicisation.
According to BON, the core issue is whether there was a good reason for choosing English in study programmes. After all, there are all kinds of disadvantages. BON brought in an expert, emeritus professor of Experimental Language Psychology, Annette de Groot, who explained that the Dutch, even if they speak English rather well, know as many words in that language as English children of eight or nine years old. She compared it to doing fretwork with a circular saw.
But the universities think differently on that matter. They always make a careful assessment, they said, even if BON doesn't agree with their assessment. They refer to enthusiastic students and approval from accreditation organisation NVAO. Internationalisation promotes the development of intercultural skills. Moreover, these universities are close to the border and prepare their students for work in the region, which happens to be international.
Afterwards, BON chairman Ad Verbrugge is “not dissatisfied”. It is actually not about the quality of the education, he thinks, but the cultural task to teach in Dutch. “We say to Achmed and Ali that they have to learn Dutch in order to integrate, but when they go to university everything is in English.” That is a political choice, he says, and this choice hasn't been made yet: the law states that education should in principle be in Dutch.
BON, however, doesn't have the political tide on its side; the minister recently announced that she wanted to change the law and accommodate English more.
In the meantime, Maastricht psychology dean, professor Anita Jansen, has become involved in the battle through a blog on the UM site. In the summons, BON concentrated on the study programme of Psychology. Jansen argues that English is a logical choice in this case because of the international character of the subject matter. But, Jansen says, BON is in fact not bothered about the quality of education, “this debate is part of the right-wing populist battle by nationalist Ad Verbrugge”.
She paints BON foreman Verbrugge as a Baudet-follower who actually feels that “foreigners should leave,” something he “cloaks (…) in gibberish about better education”. She calls him a “very cheap Scary Man”.
This tone has earned Jansen a flood of criticism on social media. A student party at the University of Groningen says the blog is “unworthy of a professor,” SP Member of Parliament Jasper van Dijk shares this point of view. BON itself calls the UM as such to account with a heading on its website: Maastricht University: plea for university education in Dutch is ‘scary’. And follows with: “We regret that Maastricht University argues on this level.”