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Flanders rejects universities' plan to offer more MAs in English

10:03 27/02/2024

A request by Belgian universities VUB, KU Leuven and UGent to offer 10 English-language master's degree programmes that would deviate from current language regulations has been rejected.

Despite a favourable opinion from the relevant committee, the Flemish government turned down the applications.

“We will never allow our higher education to be de-Dutchified,” said Flemish education minister Ben Weyts (N-VA).

The current language rules stipulate that there must be a Dutch-language equivalent for every English-language master's programme. The three universities wanted to scrap the Dutch-language equivalent for some specific masters.

“In addition to an English-language option, a Dutch-language one should be retained,” said Weyts. “Flemish students are entitled to a quality education in their own language, from kindergarten to the final year of university.”

Weyts already intervened once in the phasing out of Dutch-language master's programmes last year. Then, the battle was over civil engineering – a showpiece of the knowledge region of Flanders, according to Weyts.

Just as was the case then, only very specific programmes are involved, stressed Jan Danckaert, rector of VUB and chairman of the Flemish Interuniversity Council (Vlir). Danckaert said he was surprised by the minister's intervention.

“In very research-intensive fields, organising a Dutch-language master's creates a very high workload for the programmes,” said Danckaert. “It requires loads of energy, while sometimes only a few or even no students are involved.”

Weyts ruled that VUB must retain a Dutch-language option for a Master of Science in Applied Sciences and Engineering: Applied Computer Science and Master of Science in Physics and Astronomy, in addition to the English-language option.

Written by Helen Lyons