‘English a problem? Well, not for us students.’

| Sevim Aktas

The language discussion is taking its second round in ‘Let’s get more ridiculous’. Last Thursday, the court case against the UT and MU took place. ‘The house is burning but the fireman are not taking action.’ Really? What a circus, with BON in the leading role.

Sevim Aktas

I am annoyed, and so are my fellow students. The media and all the people who know better are talking about a student problem that is not considered a problem AT ALL - at least not by us, students who are actually living the situation. Aren’t we finally tired of the whole discussion about English and Dutch? When will we finally focus on the real deal - to really improve the quality of our education? 

What is this discussion really about? It can’t be about improving the quality of education since everything speaks against it: facts, students’ opinions, future opportunities and all the advantages that come with English-taught education. I checked out BON and surprise: It is old conservative men who like to stick to traditions and cling to the past. Who would have expected that… One thing they do very well, though: Everyone knows BON now – the image is questionable, but outreach they got for sure.

So, dear BON, with all due respect, can you please stop wasting our time and energy, so we finally get to the real deal?

The world is getting smaller and smaller: We are global citizens, especially here in the Netherlands. 

A friend of mine has been at a GroenLinks event in Utrecht last month and told me about his experience and observations on the topic under discussion: culture. The results of a live survey during the event were all over the place, no clear answer. Why? Because the Netherlands is DIVERSE. That is what makes us special. That is what we are good at. Globalisation is our strength. Exchanging with other cultures, being open, and learning from each other are values that I learned here at the UT. 

Big decisions come with advantages and disadvantages, but that is no rocket science. In order to stay at the forefront of education and research, Dutch higher education simply has to operate at an international level. It is called a transformation process because it needs TIME. We truly have to understand that and also give students and staff the chance to adapt. By sticking to our comfort zone, we will never reach our full potential - no matter in what. In this case, Maastricht and Twente are in the lead of taking us forward.

Is the quality of education currently decreasing?

Is that really a question? I mean, isn’t the fact that we are the best technical university proof enough? Despite all the state-imposed budget cuts by the way. And wow, I have never experienced such a collaborative environment before. All the educational committees of the study associations, the OLC, OKC, … are seeking feedback in order to improve. Over the last two years, I realised that the English of my professors increased tremendously. Same happened to me: I started with very basic English here at the UT. Two months it took me to adopt the language – those are the first two months that are meant to introduce me into the academic life anyway.

And that is what I mean: Let it be our problem and please focus on the relevant topics that really matter for the quality of education.

The Bachelor is supposed to prepare me for a professional or scientific career, which inevitably will be completely international. Therefore, I expect my current education to be in English. 

I am glad that last year I could attend a conference in Stanford without being uncomfortable with the level of my English. Because my uncle, who studied Medicine in Antwerp and did his PhD at Erasmus University did not even consider presenting during the conference in Washington the other week. Such a pity that the language is exactly the point that is limiting us from spreading our knowledge and participating in it. 

I am grateful that I am living in a community which is international and encourages the English language in education. Thanks, University of Twente for enabling this. 


Sevim Aktas

Bachelor student of Advanced Technology at the UT

University Innovation Fellow, Stanford University

University Council Member 2018/19­­



This letter is inspired by Irena. Thanks for voicing up your standpoint and encouraging me to publish mine. 

Stay tuned

Sign up for our weekly newsletter.