Twente University the first in NL to make English the official working language

Twente University the first in NL to make English the official working language

As of January 1, 2020, English became the official working language at the University of Twente (UT) – good news for those from abroad who don’t speak Dutch but want to study in the Netherlands. Of course, there are plenty of universities in the Netherlands offering courses in English, but UT is the first university to switch completely to English.

New language policy

The Executive Board decided to make English the official language of the university from 2018 onwards way back in 2015. A revised policy was drawn up and this new policy became effective at the start of 2019. It was only at the start of 2020, however, that English officially became the working language of the university.

This means that all lectures, research, application processes, press releases and promotional materials - basically everything - will be solely in English. There are a few exceptions, however, as several Dutch-taught courses, such as Technical Medicine and Applied Physics, will remain.

The university even asks that employees and students chat to each other in English on campus, although Dutch is still allowed. In the case of informal conversation, the university says that a language to suit everyone present should apply, echoing the principle of inclusiveness. Those whose English is not good enough will receive help via a development plan.

Harsh criticism

The decision to change the working language of the university has not only been met with harsh criticism from outside university walls but also from inside them. Dick Meijer, a maths teacher at the university and member of the university council, believes that the internationalisation of the university is first and foremost a revenue model, a means to attract as many students as possible.

According to Meijer, switching to English as the working language was presented as a “necessary survival strategy”. According to the Executive Board, the number of Dutch students was declining, so the focus has been switched to attracting international students - rather successfully. The number of international students at the University of Twente is 30 percent higher than at other universities and half of the academic staff is not Dutch-speaking.

Meijer feels that the quality of education is already suffering because of the switch to English and he is not the only one with concerns. In September, the parties CDA, SP and VVD posed parliamentary questions to the Minister of Education about the University of Twente’s decision to switch to English. In 2018, Beter Onderwijs Nederland, an organisation for the improvement of Dutch education, took the University of Twente and Maastricht to court.

The UT won the case. Later the UT adjusted its code of conduct for official working languages to comply with the Education Inspectorate after observations were made about its lack of foundation.

Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

Read more



Leave a comment

Frank Sauer 20:42 | 13 January 2020

I don’t know about other majors but when I studied computer science at the UT from 1984 to 1990 almost all materials were in English already so for computer science this wouldn’t be such a big change...

MarisolVelascoMonta 20:55 | 14 January 2020

This is also the case for TU Eindhoven, also starting on Jan 1st 2020.