Flemish Govt Rejects Universities’ Request for English-Only Master’s Programs

Belgium Europe Higher Education News International Studies by Erudera News Feb 28, 2024

students learning at Ghent University spaces

Flemish universities’ request to offer 10 Master of Science (MSc) programs solely in English and no longer in Dutch has not been accepted by the Flemish government.

The government aims to keep Dutch as the first language of instruction at universities, an idea presented by Ben Weyts, the Flemish Minister of Education, Erudera.com reports.

Minister Weyts said the requirement is important in ensuring accessibility to higher education for Flemish students but at the same time to acknowledge internationalization at universities.

According to the government, any program offered in another language should also have the Dutch variant. If universities want to no longer offer any program in Dutch, they must justify it in a request.

That’s what universities have recently done, seeking permission to shift ten Master’s programs from Dutch to English through a package of applications.

The reason why Flemish universities proposed offering MSc programs only in English is to attract more international students and respond in this way to demands in several sectors.

“I understand universities wanting to respond to the demands of some sectors and wanting more foreign students,” Education Minister Ben Weyts told VRT NWS. “But this should not be at the expense of Flemish students. Our academic offerings must remain accessible to all. That means that Dutch must remain a fully-fledged language in our higher education.”

Weyts explained that under the new legislation, Dutch-language options to foreign language courses may also be partly delivered in another language, about 18.33 percent in Bachelor’s programs and up to 50 percent in Masters.

Of the ten programs universities planned to offer only in English, six are taught in KU Leuven or Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. These programs are:

  • Master of Science in Engineering: Energy
  • Master of Science in Nanoscience, Nanotechnology and Nanoengineering
  • Master of Science in Psychology: Theory and Research
  • Master of Science in Engineering: Artificial Intelligence
  • Master of Science in Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Master of Science in Physics

The list of other programs that were requested to be offered only in English includes:

  • Master of Science in Applied Sciences and Engineering at Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Master of Science in Engineering Physics at UGent
  • Master of Science in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at UGent
  • Master of Science in Physics and Astronomy at Vrije Universiteit Brussel

This is not the first time the Flemish government has refused applications for English-only Master’s programs. Last year, several universities proposed offering 19 Master’s programs only in English.

Minister Weyts conveyed the same message back then, saying Flemish students have been learning Dutch from kindergarten through their final year of college.

Image Source: UGent Twitter Account

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