“No worries: we are and will continue to be an international faculty”

Entrance of FASoS Building at Grote Gracht

“No worries: we are and will continue to be an international faculty”

Meeting for FASoS staff about internationalisation

11-10-2023 · News

MAASTRICHT. Is my job safe? Will I still be welcome as a foreigner? Due to the Internationalisation Bill, these are frequently expressed worries at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS), according to the faculty board. Last Friday, there was a meeting for employees about the future of the self-proclaimed ‘most international faculty’ of Maastricht University.

The bill presented by education minister Dijkgraaf this summer could have drastic consequences for FASoS. At the moment, all study programmes are completely in English and three quarters of the students are from abroad. The bill sets stricter requirements for the language used in programmes. Two thirds of every bachelor’s programme must be in Dutch, unless the minister gives permission for it to be in a different language. In addition, foreign students will be compelled to have some knowledge of the Dutch language.

This brought forth “lively discussions” on FASoS’s employee intranet, said dean Christine Neuhold at the beginning of the meeting. “There are a lot of concerns among staff and students. But I assure you: everyone is welcome here, your jobs are safe. We are and will continue to be an international faculty; at the moment, we have no intention to adapt our education system.”

So there will be no changes? There is still a lot of unclarity about that, board member Patrick Bijsmans emphasised. “We don’t know what is going to happen with the bill. Moreover, there are a lot of possible exceptions within the present proposal for the continued existence of ‘different language’ bachelor’s programmes.” But what if the latter doesn’t happen and the programmes have to largely become Dutch language programmes? This question was not answered.

Multilingualism

Those present were able to give their opinions on certain propositions using their smartphones. Is internationalisation possible without Englishisation? Of the approximately sixty employees who voted (the majority of those present), two thirds disagreed to some extent or very much. On the other hand, roughly 80 per cent felt that some knowledge of Dutch was required to function properly at FASoS.

The proposition that there should be more Dutch language education in the bachelor’s was not very popular: more than one third disagreed somewhat or very much, about 40 per cent remaining neutral. “Many students come to Maastricht especially because they want to study in English and not in Dutch,” one employee said.

A large majority (roughly 80 per cent) was an advocate of more room for multilingualism within the education programme. That means also German or French literature, or publishing research – when relevant to the subject – in Dutch, Hungarian or Spanish. That should be a choice, not an obligation, the audience felt.

Burnout

Some wondered whether this would not generate more bureaucracy; and would it not become more difficult to check assignments? “The workload is already a huge problem; how can we ensure that this does not escalate further and cause more burnouts?”

A discussion about the Dutch language playing a greater role, the content of the bill, to a large extent didn’t happen. Although an employee did complain about the fact that a number of propositions were in Dutch today. “In the beginning, it was stated that everyone should feel welcome here, but I don’t speak Dutch, so this does not feel inclusive.”

Farce

Philosopher René Gabriëls, who showed himself to be a fervent opponent of the “over-Englishisation” of higher education in articles in national media and in a reaction to Dijkgraaf’s bill, kept himself to himself during the meeting. “I felt it was a farce,” he said by telephone afterwards. “This was by no means an academic discussion. For that, you need to hear different opinions, also from outside the faculty, such as a member of the Executive Board and a politician. And also from scientists who are experts in these subjects, some of whom we even have within the faculty.”

Instead, this was just an attempt by the board to reassure the staff, Gabriëls reckons. “While they should be saying what the obstacles are. For example, that there is a perverse system in which the faculty is financially dependent on foreign students. Also, which scenarios are there if the bachelor’s programmes do have to become partly in Dutch? The board has no vision about this, but only aims for an exceptional position. In addition, nobody spoke about the responsibility we carry as scientists for Dutch society and culture.”

Another reason for Gabriëls not speak out is the “prevailing ‘frame’. If you criticise over-Englishisation, you are wrongly put into a corner with people who are against internationalisation. Then you are said to be a nationalist or populist. That is certainly not the case.”

Beginning

Another strong opponent of Englishisation (who also publicly reacted to the bill), professor Lies Wesseling, also did not get involved in the discussion. She did not even join the meeting. She didn’t expect an open debate, she told Observant by e-mail beforehand. “The board seemed to see it as chairing their own informative afternoon. I don’t need that information. As our foreign colleagues, according to the institute’s policy of 2018, are supposed to be fluent in Dutch at C1 level, they should be capable of independently following the debate about the language of instruction at Dutch universities in the Dutch media, with the exception of recently appointed colleagues.” Wesseling also refers to the confusion between internationalisation and Englishisation. “These are two things that you have to keep separate.”

The board regards the meeting primarily as a beginning to the discussion, they said on Friday afternoon. In the time to come, they will visit the various departments to continue the discussion about internationalisation.

Photo: Joey Roberts

Categories: News, news_top
Tags: fasos,internationalisation,language,staff,englishisation,multilingualism,dutch,education

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