Trends towards English

Next academic year TU Delft will introduce a second English language bachelor course. What are the general trends behind such a move?

The internationalisation of TU Delft is clearly indicated by the increase of the use of the English language. The 2013 academic year opening ceremony was in English, and English has been used successfully within the bachelor programme of the Faculty of Aerospace Engineering for the past ten years.

At TU Delft all of the master’s programmes are already given in English and one third of master’s students are international. For PhD candidates, the proportion rises to two thirds. Having BSc programmes in English highlights a natural extension of the English language further down the study chain. Bachelor programmes where this happens are the ones most connected to technical sectors with a global scope. As is the case with the Geoscience depart, 40% of the international teaching staff are not Dutch speakers and use English as a matter of course.

The transition to English for a second bachelor programme of Applied Earth Sciences will begin next autumn. The board of TU Delft prefers a precautionary approach to begin with, initially without outreach abroad. There will be a year by year implementation, allowing Dutch students who started in the program to finish it in Dutch. If successful, the intention is to actively promote the course in the near future. The open programme has great international potential and can also cater in future to the large expatriate community in the western Netherlands who attend English language secondary schools.

Considering the other Dutch technical universities, Eindhoven and Twente currently offer more bachelors programmes in English. Eindhoven has seven programmes while Twente offers six.

Almost all other higher education institutions in the Netherlands offer some English language bachelor courses. There are now around 200 bachelor qualifications available in English often with a very open and international focus. Sometimes these courses are multidisciplinary and clearly tailored to attract international students. The most options are for business oriented and liberal arts bachelor programmes, though science and technology is also represented. Some universities in Amsterdam, Utrecht and Leiden have set up university colleges where international students live and study together. They can compose their BSc from a wide range of subjects from academic areas according to their own preferences.

International study abroad is becoming more difficult and expensive, partly due to tightened immigration regulations which limit the mobility of students. Despite this Dutch universities are recognising the internationalisation of global fields of knowledge and offering programmes in English lower the threshold for study abroad and further encourage exchange between students. Although universities often quote their global university rankings to promote themselves, they are putting rivalries aside. They make alliances and pool their resources to keep standards high, compete internationally and attract the best students. Dutch universities can even offer a less expensive option to students from other countries such as the UK where BSc tuition fees are more than four times the Dutch amount. From a local perspective more internationalisation also results in home students better prepared for the global job and research market.

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