Dutch language used less and less at universities

| HOP, Josefine van Enk

The trend continues: the Dutch language is increasingly being supplanted by English at universities. Less than one third of students say that they follow their study programme entirely in Dutch.

This is the conclusion reached by the Taalunie, the Union for the Dutch Language, in its research report Staat van het Nederlands [Status of the Dutch Language]. Half of the Dutch-speaking students interviewed (48.5 percent) use both Dutch and English in their study programme. 14.3 percent are taught only in English, while less than a third (28.1 percent) do everything in Dutch.

English language

According to the Taalunie, the upsurge of English in higher education can be seen in a variety of areas. Lessons are increasingly being given in English and more and more study material is in English. There has also been a decline in the use of Dutch for communicating with lecturers and fellow students in comparison with 2016.

No problem

Dutch students do not appear worried by it. The majority (61 percent) do not regard it as a problem that languages other than Dutch are used for non-language subjects. In Friesland an even greater majority (76 percent) is in favour, although they undoubtedly also have the Frisian language in mind.

These 'predominantly positive attitudes regarding other languages in higher education' will, in the view of the Taalunie, contribute to the upsurge in English in higher education in the Netherlands.

Higher professional education (Hbo)

At universities of applied sciences, however, the picture is different: the majority of the students (68 percent) are studying entirely in Dutch. But because only a small number of students in higher professional education took part in the survey, the Taalunie has some reservations about that percentage.

In Surinam too the Dutch language maintains a 'reasonably strong position' in higher education. A majority of 64 percent of the students say it is the only language they need in their study programme.


The anglicisation of higher education has long been the subject of sometimes fierce debate. A bill is awaiting approval in the Upper House that forces educational institutions to demonstrate the added value of teaching in English. If they are unable to do so, they would have to revert to Dutch. The bill will be debated only when a new government is formed.

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