Policy summary: Code of Conduct for the English Language at Delft University of Technology

Title of document: Gedragscode Engelse taal TU Delft
Date: 2015
Approximate length: 2 pages
Available here (in Dutch)

The document consists of 5 sections:

  1. Objective: to provide quality assurance in the use of ‘a foreign language, such as English’ as the language of instruction in study programmes at Delft
  2. Basic premises/points of departure: here the infamously loose Article 7.2 WHW is given verbatim, which basically says that the language of instruction in Dutch higher education is Dutch unless, which is then followed by a range of exceptions. Delft makes full use of these exceptions: the following subsections indicate that all its master’s programmes are now in English, and that they are legally within rights to also give bachelor’s programmes in English. The document does state that such bachelor’s programmes will be offered in both Dutch and English in the first year (but note: only in the case of sufficient teaching capacity)
  3. Code of conduct: this section goes on to say that the teaching materials and exams of English-language programmes are also in English
  4. Implementation: Competence in the English language is a selection criterion and point of professional attention for teaching staff. For students, part of the role of the bachelor’s phase is to prepare them for the English-language master’s phase, so even in Dutch-language bachelor’s programmes there will be English-language teaching material and incidental courses taught in English
  5. Quality assurance and evaluation: Teaching materials and exams will be reviewed periodically for English-language quality, and lecturers’ English will be assessed in the student evaluations

One thing that strikes me here is the euphemistic use in the wording of the objective of ‘a foreign language’, when what is clearly meant throughout the document is English. In my research I’ll be subjecting uses like this to critical discourse analysis in an effort to show who benefits from such euphemisms: the institutions facing political pressure from the education inspectorate, which itself is keen to save face in the eyes of the public?

In Article 7.2 of the WHW (reproduced under 2 in this document), there is implicit positioning of Dutch as a language that is by definition not spoken by guest lecturers. What is not explicitly stated but is implied by this assumption is that people of non-Dutch backgrounds couldn’t possibly speak Dutch. There is a one-nation-one-language ideology at work here, whereby language and nationality are tied strictly to one another: Dutch is of the Dutch!

The other notable point is just how much leeway there is for English-language higher education. As I mention above, the WHW is notoriously vague, and institutions are quick to point out that in making use of English as the language of instruction they fall well within the bounds of the law, as Delft does here in section 2.


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