English language proficiency plan for teaching staff

TU Delft is proposing setting the minimum requirement for all academic teaching staff at C1 high. Anyone below this level will be given three to five years to meet this requirement.

(Photo: Thomas Zwart)


The Human Resources (HR) department feels that the language requirements for teaching staff needs adjusting because of the increased number of bachelor studies taught in English. The current differentiation between the required proficiency for teaching staff in bachelor and master programmes is therefore no longer relevant. Moreover, the international standards for the language level have changed and the Student Council has repeatedly pointed to the sometimes poor level of English of teachers.

A proposed decision states that professors, associate professors, assistant professors and teachers should all meet the C1 high language level within three years of their appointment. On January 1 2018, sixty percent met this level. Fifteen percent (272 people) did not and a quarter (391 people) had not yet been tested. The TU Delft Centre for Languages ​​and Academic Skills (ITAV) estimates that it will take approximately two years to get everyone tested.

Academic staff that have not yet met the required level are asked to make arrangements to do so. This could involve taking a course at ITAV, taking an external course or doing the necessary self-study. Based on previous test results, ITAV expects that approximately 85 people of the group to be tested will fail to meet the required level, and that, in total, 357 people will have to follow courses. ITAV estimates that this will take about 140 hours of intensive training per level per teacher.

It is advisable to make firm agreements about this. Teachers are required to invest time in addition to their busy work schedules to attain the desired level. They can take English language courses during working hours and the costs will be covered by the university. If a teacher does not progress to the required level within a reasonable timeframe of three to five years, the department can relieve the teacher of his or her English teaching tasks.

In consultation with the Executive Board, the Works Council wondered whether that involved dismissal. The Council pointed out that the proposal means a reduction in educational capacity, while the university needs an increase. Maybe people should only go to courses if it really is needed. “There can be bad English in good education,” Council member, Menno Blaauw, said.

Board member Rob Mudde, endorsed this on the grounds that ‘upper class English’ can be difficult to understand for non-native speakers. He said that he would assess the biggest bottlenecks, because “The sum of the parts can sometimes be greater than an organisation can bear.” The Student Council had already pointed to teachers’ high workloads. Each faculty should develop its own approach to avoid English language courses putting even greater work pressure on teachers. According to HR, TU Delft should count on ten years for the entire plan.

Normering Engelse taalvaardigheid.pdf

News editor Connie van Uffelen

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