Universiteit Leiden

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Dutch or ‘another’ language? Language policy at Dutch universities

Thursday 2 May 2019
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


Language policy at Dutch universities is currently at a critical juncture. In 2018 alone, Maastricht and Twente universities were sued over the proliferation of English-language degrees, and the education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven announced that study programmes may lose their accreditation if they fail to adequately justify the use of English-medium instruction.

In this talk I present new research on language policy at Dutch universities, drawing on the fields of critical discourse analysis and language ideologies. I investigate discourses surrounding the language of instruction by means of a multi-layered analysis of policy documents at state level (policy memos, advisory reports) and institution level (university internationalisation strategies and linguistic codes of conduct).

The documents often refer to English euphemistically in descriptions of the language of instruction as Dutch or ‘another language’. Policies at both levels display language ideologies rooted in traditional notions of language separation and the native-speaker ideal, even while paying lip service to the importance of linguistic diversity and multilingualism-as-resource. The analysis also reveals frictions rooted in conflicting interests at state and institutional level. The former are drawn up in response to political demands, the latter in response to the pressure to internationalise and attract foreign staff and students. As has been found for Denmark (Hultgren 2014), the result is that state-authored policies are in favour of more Dutch, while institution-authored policies favour more English.


Hultgren, A.K. (2014). Whose parallellingualism? Overt and covert ideologies in Danish university language policies. Multilingua 33 (1-2): 61-87.

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