Universiteit Leiden

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New agreements on language use at Leiden University

Leiden University is an internationally oriented Dutch university, where we communicate with one another in both Dutch and English. To ensure that we handle this bilingual convention with due care, the Executive Board has established a set of guidelines on language policy. These guidelines set out the most important agreements and norms regarding language within our University.

English is the lingua franca of the scientific world. A considerable proportion of Leiden students and staff have an international background. At the same time, the University also has an important role in preserving and developing Dutch as a language of science.   

The Guidelines on Language Policy set out agreements on the level of language competence of lecturers, staff and students, the language of instruction, the dual language of our communications and the language used within the University administration. 

Language level of lecturers

We require our lecturers and staff to have a high level of language proficiency. Lecturers who teach in English must have C1 level, and are asked to demonstrate this with a test. The language abilities of lecturers are also included in the teaching evaluations. If there is reason for doing so, the language level will be part of the annual performance interview between the lecturer and his or her supervisor. International lecturers who teach in Dutch are equally required to have a C1 level of language competence.

Dutch language

The language used in administrative circles at Leiden University is in principle Dutch. This means that policy-related documents and meetings of management and participation bodies will be in Dutch, unless an alternative decision is taken. To be able to allow everyone to participate in these boards and councils, the University encourages international staff with the prospect of a permanent contract to develop at least a passive knowledge of the Dutch language.


International students are encouraged to learn Dutch via the ‘Dutch & More’ course launched in August. If they complete this online course successfully, they are given a  sizeable discount on the Dutch courses at Leiden’s Academic Language Centre.

In addition, all third-year bachelor’s students are offered the opportunity to test their level of English via an online test to better prepare themselves for their – in many cases English-taught – master’s programme. An online course will also become available for this group in the future to help them improve their English, where necessary.

Language of instruction

The language of instruction for each programme is determined by the programme department itself, in line with the University’s Code of Conduct on the Language of Instruction. The Code of Conduct further emphasises the importance of implementing the language of instruction consistently across all the component subjects.

Language Box

The University has also set up a ‘Language Box’, where students, staff and others can share their comments, ideas, complaints or tips on language within our University.  

Pass on your comments, ideas, complaints or tips via this e-mail address: languagebox@bb.leidenuniv.nl.

The Guidelines on Language Policy were discussed by the University Council (UR) on 21 August.

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