Policy summary: Language policy of the University of Amsterdam

Title of document: Code of Conduct governing Foreign Languages at the University of Amsterdam
Date: 2000
Approximate length: 3 pages
Available in English and Dutch (link)

This document consists of six articles followed by two and a bit pages of explanatory notes. It is more limited than the codes of conduct of other universities: as Article 1 states, it only applies to undergraduate teaching (i.e. not to master’s programmes or teaching materials).

Article 2 states that ‘Teaching will be provided and interim or other examinations conducted in the Dutch language.’ Article 3, however, goes on the say that ‘… a language other than Dutch may also be used if so required because of the specific nature of the programme.’

Note that we see yet again the euphemistic use of ‘a language other than Dutch’, when clearly English is meant. This also appears in the next article: ‘The use of a foreign language in a study programme will be set out in the relevant Teaching and Examination Regulations’ (italics added).

The explanatory notes quote Art 7.2 WHW. What is interesting is that this is followed by a fairly extensive meta-commentary surrounding the exact meaning and (in)clarity of this article. For legislators, ‘The reason for the basic principle that Dutch be spoken is that the language of the country should be respected.’ The texts states that the UvA agrees with this premise; and yet, ‘there may be a clash between [this premise and] the trend towards internationalisation’. Indeed, this hits the nail on the head: the dilemma faced by all Dutch universities is that the government wants them to internationalise (i.e. attract foreign staff and students), while also maintaining Dutch as the teaching language.

Ultimately, the choice of language of instruction is devolved to faculty level: ‘If there are reasons to depart from the basic principle and to provide teaching in a language other than Dutch, the Executive Board is of the opinion that this choice is best made at the faculty level’. Further, ‘Because specific requirements and external factors play a role in every study programme or faculty, it is not possible to formulate detailed conditions for the use of a foreign language in a code of conduct’ – which apparently explains why the provisions of this document are fairly cursory.

This document is fairly dated by now, but it is referred to in Article 5.9 of the Student Charter, the section of language of instruction, so apparently it is still valid.


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