Free Dutch classes popular

The Language Centre has hired eleven new teachers to meet the demand for the free Dutch classes. Enrolment numbers also roughly doubled from 2013 to 2014.

Starting in 2013, international degree students at the RUG became entitled to up to 50 hours of Dutch language classes. That year, 529 bachelor or master students and 53 PhD candidates enrolled. In 2014, those numbers jumped to 875 bachelor and master students and 156 PhD candidates. That information was published in an evaluation of the pilot this month.

Even though enrolment numbers rose, the budget in 2014 wasn’t dramatically higher than 2013. The annual budget was 310,000 euros, but in 2013, the total spent was only 159,595 euros. In 2014, it was 198,850.

More teachers

In total, 261,500 euros were left over from both years – that will cover the costs of the courses through 2015. Out of all students enrolled, 42.2 per cent took one class for 24 or 26 hours – 48 per cent took 50 hours of classes. From now on, most students will be eligible for up to 100 hours of classes.

Eleven new teachers were added to the Language Centre staff for the Dutch courses. That makes 38 teachers who are available to teach Dutch as a Second Language (NT2) courses.

The courses are paid for by the University with one exception. Researchers who are not PhD candidates or postdocs have their lesson costs covered by their own faculty. These employees did not enrol in large numbers during the pilot.

Higher drop out rate

However, it appears that students in the free classes are more likely to drop out. For comparison, in the first term of 2014, 19.9 per cent of students in the free classes didn’t complete them, whereas 16.8 per cent of students in the regular classes did.

‘Given that PhDs don’t pay for their classes themselves, they are not incurring a financial loss if they choose to drop out. That makes the decision easier’, according to the report.

A lack of urgency also seems to contribute. Other than students, people who enrol in the Dutch language courses often do so to fulfil immigration requirements, which makes the classes effectively mandatory.

Shortage of classrooms

One side effect of the popularity of the courses is a shortage of available classrooms. Some classes are taught outside of the Harmonie complex as a result. From this point forward, students will be allowed to take classes over the course of their degree programme rather than only their first academic year. In doing so, the report says that the space issue should hopefully be resolved.

Students from some faculties attend the classes more frequently than others. The Faculties of Economics and Business, Arts, Behavioural and Social Sciences, and Math and Natural Sciences had the most students signing up.

Both in 2013 and 2014, these four faculties contributed 80 per cent of the students taking the free classes. Among all PhD candidates who enrolled, half of them came from the math and natural sciences faculty – around 350 PhD candidates in the faculty are non-Dutch.

The Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences has the most international students: 1,243. Out of that number, 1,029 are German. According to the analysis, German students typically only need 50 hours of classes to achieve a B1 level of fluency. The scale ranges from A1 (low fluency) to C2 (high fluency). Since German students pick up Dutch more easily, they are not eligible for the newly increased offering of 100 hours.


The Board of Directors reimburses the costs of the classes. For 24 to 26 hours of classes, the University pays between 145 and 275 euros; for 50 hours, they pay from 275 to 525 euros per student.

In total, there are roughly 3,800 international students enrolled at the RUG as of October 2014.  Out of that group, 1,031 took the Dutch classes, around one fourth of all international students. Exchange students, Erasmus Mundus students in Groningen for less than ten months and the partners of students do not qualify for the free classes.