Gradual transition from Dutch to English
Our university is increasingly becoming international. More and more students from around the world know how to find Groningen and settle here as exchange students or as full time bachelor, master or PhD students. However, attracting international students to come to Groningen does not make the university truly international. In order to achieve this, both Dutch and international students need to invest in getting to know each other and studying together. Our university can surely help to facilitate this.
Students need to become a community in which cultural differences can ensure intercultural learning outcomes and prepare students to be able to function in the international labour market. Language plays an important role in the process of integration. This is why last week, all faculties were given the advice ‘to communicate in English in all governance bodies at central and faculty level from academic year 2015/2016 onwards’. Therefore, the letter to the faculties also contained advice to change the official language in due time to English in co-determination bodies like the faculty councils and University Council.
Lijst Calimero agrees that an increasingly internationally-orientated university calls for internationalising the University Council. With increasing numbers of international students at the UoG, it is becoming more important to promote the interests of this growing group of students. It is also important that co-determination bodies become better accessible for international students in order to stimulate the integration of these students within the university and give them the opportunity to develop themselves within the levels of co-determination.
However, a gradual transition from Dutch to English in co-determination bodies is necessary. In this process, it is important to keep in mind that the quality of discussions within the councils is guaranteed at all times. This means that if this quality is at danger because of the transition to English, there must still be a possibility to speak Dutch, especially in the transition phase. If the quality declines, the councils cannot function optimally and this is definitely undesirable. The University council itself will be able to determine whether the language being spoken in the council should be changed or not. Therefore, we will discuss this within the council.
We are of the opinion that a transition of the language being spoken in the council from Dutch to English alone will not be enough. International university and faculty councils are inseparable from receiving policy documents in English. Only when the majority of these documents are provided for in English will it be possible to have a discussion of high quality in English. A change of the official language of the council can only be accomplished when the policy-making bodies of the University of Groningen have switched to English. Therefore, we urge the university to invest in more international staff and to offer their current staff good training and guidance to enable them to present the documents of the university’s policies in English.
The transition towards English should not only happen at central level in the University Council, but most definitely also at faculty level and in faculty councils. At faculty level, a short comment should however be made. In faculty councils of faculties that have few international students and no international students in their council, the possibility to speak Dutch should always be left open. In our opinion, the use of English in co-determination should be a consequence of internationalisation but never an end in itself.
Secretaris Lijst Calimero
Photo: Francisco Osorio