Academy: make studying Dutch more attractive

4 November 2019

Maintain and protect for the foreseeable future the five existing Dutch philology courses in Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen, Leiden and Nijmegen. Let academic Dutch philology re-examine its position between 'broad' bachelor programmes and new disciplines.

Make Dutch at school more attractive and interesting in terms of content, and entice more academically trained teachers into the classroom in as many ways as possible. Set up a Dutch Philology Panel to work with pre-university and higher professional education bodies to improve the position of the discipline. These are the most important recommendations in the Academy advisory report Dutch Deserves More (Nederlands verdient meer), which was published this afternoon.

Due to the dramatic decrease in the number of students studying Dutch (from 600 in 2009 to only 200 in 2018), the Minister asked the Academy to analyse the problem and to put forward a proposal for increasing the inflow of students.

Dutch as a study has a double problem. Firstly, pupils at senior general secondary (havo) and pre-university level (vwo) find it a boring and not very useful subject. Secondly, students think that Dutch philology at university is just as boring and that you will most likely end up as a teacher. Many students do not find that an attractive prospect. In reality, however, a university degree in Dutch philology is far more interesting and challenging than a school subject. And the idea that you will end up as a teacher after studying Dutch philology is simply unfounded: three out of four graduates find a job outside of teaching.

In recent decades, Dutch philology at universities has experienced strong competition from new 'broad' disciplines, such as language and culture studies, media studies and the liberal arts and sciences programmes, which attract many students. As a result, Dutch philology is becoming less and less visible and professorships are disappearing.

In view of the importance of Dutch philology for Dutch society, the Academy first of all advocates protecting and strengthening the existing complete study programmes in Dutch philology. At the same time, however, the discipline has to reflect on the changing context in which people work. How broad and deep does Dutch philology actually want to be, what does this mean for the content of the study, and what are its target professions?

With the decline in student numbers, the flow of academically shaped, fully-qualified teachers will eventually dry up too. That's a pressing problem. To turn the tide, there are also a number of practical solutions (in addition to long-term measures) such as financial support for students following a second master's programme in teaching.

In order to cope with these problems, all Dutch-language scholars, at universities, in higher and secondary education and other sectors, should work together intensively for a longer period. The Academy recommends setting up a Dutch Philology Panel, as part of the existing Language Platform. One of the first tasks of this Panel will be to draw up a plan for the entire discipline for the next three years in joint consultation. The Panel must therefore be made up of authoritative persons from all sectors. 

The advisory report Dutch deserves more. How to increase the attractiveness of the study (in Dutch only) was written by a diverse committee chaired by Lex Heerma van Voss, director of the Huygens Institute for Netherlands History.