Not every employee wants to do a course in Dutch

Not every employee wants to do a course in Dutch

From June also ‘brush-up’ courses for staff only

21-04-2023 · News

MAASTRICHT. What is the situation with the language policy that Maastricht University introduced in 2018? How many people have taken the compulsory courses in English and Dutch since then? “Op de Berg” (MUO) and at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, which have completed the entire track, it concerns 8 and 6 per cent of staff, respectively. At the University Library, many of whom are administrative and support staff, almost one quarter has brushed up, especially on their English.

Maastricht University is officially bilingual: Dutch and English. The Executive Board introduced a language policy in 2018; staff are expected to have a good command of both languages. This concerns the rather simple B1 level for activities other than teaching and near-native speaker C1 level for those who teach.

End of 2026

Due to the hack in December 2019, which was followed by the Covid pandemic, the introduction of the language policy was delayed for a while. At the University Library, the university office (MUO) and at the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, the assessment track has now been completed. The faculties of Science and Engineering (FSE) and Law have also made good headway, says Rosa Becker, senior policy advisor for internationalisation. “I expect Law to be finished in the summer and FSE at the beginning of autumn.”
At the end of 2024, the total number should be at eight faculties and service centres. At the end of 2026, that should be twelve. Is that feasible? After all, two large faculties (Health, Medicine and Life Sciences and the School of Business and Economics) still need to be assessed. Becker is convinced: “We are on schedule.”

Without students

During the track, everyone must show a ‘proof of language’ (mother tongue statement, diploma, certificate). If that is insufficient, an (online) Quick Placement Test will be carried out at the UM Language Centre. Anyone who scores below the required level, will need to take the course. At the moment, this is carried out in a mixed group, so also with students, during working hours or in the evening. But not all staff are happy with this. “We have indeed received such signals. That is why we are going to start a staff-only group at the Language Centre in June.” It is English@work and Dutch at work at levels A1 and A2, “which is the basis, from where we want to work towards staff-only courses at level B1.”
Should UM not have thought about that sooner, with the introduction of the policy in 2018? After all, it is easy to imagine that lecturers won’t want to ‘learn’ together with their own students. Becker: “I don’t know if it was brought up before, it is possible. But we are learning by doing.”


Rumours have been heard about the language policy ‘backfiring’. Foreign talent allegedly does not want to come, PhD students supposedly do not want to come because of the level B1 Dutch requirement. That is not correct, says Becker. “PhD students and postdocs are not affected by the policy, they have temporary contracts. If they teach less than 10 per cent of their time, the C1 minimum requirement in the teaching language doesn’t apply either. By the way, they are allowed to take a course if they want. They would need to have a chat with their superior. The faculty or department will foot the bill.”

Do their best

There is resistance in some places. Workload is a frequently heard argument against taking a course. You have to listen to that, said president Rianne Letschert previously to Observant: “Where necessary, we will seek solutions.” Then there is the grumbling from some foreign employees who do not see the point of taking a Dutch language course. Letschert has “less understanding” for them. Becker understands “that everyone is busy”, but the aim of the policy is to “bring people together, create a more inclusive community. Everyone has to make an effort. This could mean that talks are not always in English or in Dutch as the norm. It could also be a mix of the two languages, where everyone is expected to do their best to communicate in that bilingual context.”

Author: Wendy Degens

Illustration: Shutterstock

Tags: language policy, internationalisation,Dutch,courses,English

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