The students heard about the change during the programme's end-of-year gathering. ‘Of course it was decided upon some time ago,’ De Jong says, ‘but we've only now communicated it to the broad public.’ For students who had specifically chosen to follow the Communication Studies programme because they thought the lectures, assignments and exams would be in Dutch, this was quite a hard pill to swallow.
Out of the blue
Although many students seemed to be taking the change well, some were quite shocked. ‘This really comes out of the blue,’ says student Lysanne Muijsert.
‘I understand you have to do more in English, because you need to be able to use the English language more and more, but I'm not so proficient in English that I could give a presentation of the same quality just like that. Soon, not only your competences, but also the quality of your English will be tested, even though I haven't used my English skills in years. That worries me.’
De Jong recognizes the concern. ‘Some of the students are scared of what next year may bring. They fear their English might not be good enough. For this reason, we did discuss the issue yesterday. This group of students started their studies at the UT a year ago. We would have preferred to tell them back then.’
Only second year will be different
This didn't happen, because the development of the TEM modules for the first-year programme was on the top of the list at the time. ‘The second year was still a long time away,’ says De Jong.
But not any more. The second year starting after the summer holidays will be made up of four modules, three of which will be taught in English. (including English-language lectures, assignments and exams). The upcoming first-year students have not been told either. ‘We will soon make the necessary changes to thewebsite and will tell the students during the first first-year meeting of the new academic year.’
For now, the first and third year of the programme will continue to be in Dutch.
The news that the second year of the Communication Studies programme will soon be in English may have come as a surprise, but the plan fits in with the broader change that is going on at the UT. The UT wants to strengthen its international character. It wants to focus more on exchanging knowledge with other countries, which is why it is increasing the use of English.
‘Education-wise, it's a good decision,’ states De Jong. ‘I understand students may get cold feet. The master's students had cold feet, too, when English became the primary language of our master's programmes, but that change never caused any real problems.’
Student Jeroen Mulder agrees. ‘I'm sure everyone studying at this university will be able to manage. I don't think you'll be judged too harshly if you make grammatical errors. When you're studying at a university, English is simply part of the deal. It opens up a whole new world.’