Christmas goals: Andreia Duque
Christmas goals: Andreia Duque
Andreia, PR commissioner of the student delegation of the University Council, won a seat on behalf of Lijst VUUR. As an international herself, the portfolio Internationalisation was her very first choice. The recently approved Strategic Plan 20-25 for Utrecht University was a source of inspiration for the projects she had in mind, such as a Bilingual Policy for co-participation; increase students’ and professors’ English proficiency; incentivise student and study associations to include international students in the student community; and finally aware the student community for the advantages of internationalisation.
Project Language policy in the University Council
For the first time at Utrecht University, two international students took a seat in the Council, both on behalf of Lijst VUUR. This year the Language policy in the University Council was supposed to be following a form of multilingual participation, Luistertaal, in which people with different linguistic and cultural backgrounds both continue to speak their own language and can still understand each other. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be applied straight away because my Dutch proficiency level did not meet the sufficient standards.
The very first barrier international non-Dutch speaking students face in a participation body, like the University Council, is the language: the current and previous documents are in Dutch, the meetings are in Dutch, communication platforms, such as Whatsapp and Slack, are in Dutch, emails are in Dutch, etc.. What do you do when you’re listening and reading proficiency in Dutch don’t meet the minimum standards? This year, the following solutions were applied:
- Dutch classes twice a week specifically oriented to increase Dutch proficiency in medezeggenschap vocabulary;
- Word versions of Council’s documents 2020/2021, so that those could be translated via deepl.com or google.com.
- Council meetings are translated simultaneously, so that Nandika and I follow what is being discussed and play a part in the discussion;
Why is it still so difficult to participate? What can be improved next year?
- Having Dutch classes oriented to medezeggenschap in the summer holidays is not enough to start with Luistertaal from September onwards when the Dutch proficiency of the student is A1/A2. I was an A1. Dutch is a difficult language itself, but it is especially difficult for non-originating Germanic languages. Therefore, if the official language of the Council will still be Dutch in the years to come, I strongly advise the University Council to accept applicants with a minimum level of Dutch proficiency equivalent to B1 level. On one hand, I still see international students being excluded from co-participation, but on the other hand, I see an opportunity for the University Council to invest more on its visibility so that international students get to know about the University Council soon enough and, therefore,f start learning Dutch from the very first year of their studies if they are interested in pursuing a year at the University Council, or on any other similar body in co-participation.
- Moreover, as soon as elections are over and international students have won a seat in the Council, they should start learning Dutch immediately. Start in mid-April for example.
- There is still space to improve the simultaneous translations of the meetings. I suggest hiring a previous Council member with a high English proficiency level. Quick and sharp translating skills from Dutch to English are as important as experience as a Council member. But the fact that there are no breaks when discussing a topic or during an argumentation, the translator is only capable of providing a very short summary of what’s is being discussed.
- At the Faculty of Geosciences, Luistertaal is being used but instead, English is the main spoken language and any Council member can speak Dutch if they prefer. However, the official documents are in Dutch, because the four international Council members (3 students and 1 staff member) have a sufficient reading Dutch proficiency. At UCR, English is the official language of the meetings and all their official documents are written in English as well, but this is a very particular Faculty at Utrecht University: it is an international campus where students are prepared for an international job market. I believe that the experiment at the Faculty of Geo Sciences would also be possible at the University Council, but not in the short term.
- Word versions of the official documents are only a short term solution. Some notas or briefen are easily translated via deepl.com or even google translator. It is never perfect, but it is a very affordable option that allows international students to participate. The problem with unofficial translations arise when documents such as the begrotingsbeleid, with pages and pages of tables and acronyms have to be translated via these platforms. These documents shall have an official translation.
My proposal for documents’ translations of this Council year:
- Notas and letters that have no easy unofficial translation shall be translated.
- All the documents alluding to medezeggenschap that are of high importance, shall be translated.
- Everytime a council member requests the official translation of a document of similar structure of the begrotingsbeleid, it shall be given.
I looked at the regulations (found here), essential documents for the representative bodies of the University, and only two documents are translated. Follows the list of documents:
- Reglement voor de Universiteitsraad van de Universiteit Utrecht (juni 2017) (Regulations for the Univeristy Council[FDA(1]) ✔
- Nota instemmingsrecht hoofdlijnen begroting universiteitsraad (juni 2017) (Notes to the Regulation for the University Council) ✔
- Toelichting Reglement op Reglement voor de universiteitsraad (juni 2017) ✖
- Reglement van orde voor de universiteitsraad [FDA(2](september 2018) ✖
- Kiesreglement (juni 2017) ✖
- Toelichting op het Kiesreglement (juni 2017) ✖
- Convenant college van bestuur, universiteitsraad en lokaal overleg (maart 2006) ✖
- Verklaring vrijwilligerswerk (april 2019) ✖
✔ translated ✖not translated
The “Reglement van orde voor de universiteitsraad” does not have a translation and is especially recommended to read regarding the basics on the rights and obligations with regard to employee and student participation.
Project increasing English language proficiency of students and professors
Students English proficiency is accessed via the IELTS, Academic Module, exam and the minimum required at Utrecht University to pursue a Master programme is a minimum score 6.5 overall brand, with at least 6.0 for writing.
If we look at the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR), we rapidly conclude that Utrecht University should raise the minimum requirements for students’ English proficiency level. A minimum level of 6.0 for writing is equivalent to a B2 level, which is not a proficient user, rather an independent user. A not sufficient English proficiency has a negative impact on the quality of the papers, thesis or any scientific document written in English by students or researches, but also when working together. Moreover, lacking the required English proficiency deteriorates the quality of education when professor’s English proficiency limits his/her perspectives while tackling a certain topic in a class room.
In order to keep up with the high quality of education offered by Utrecht University, the minimum score for the four categories of an IELTS exam shall be 7, for any Master programme fully taught in English. Furthermore, Professors teaching courses in English, should also take the IELTS exam and score likewise.
Project integration comes both ways
I always say that integration is a shared effort. When international students move to the Netherlands, they shall put effort in embracing the culture and the language and avoid living in an international bubble, but this is only possible if Dutch students open up to integrate international students on a daily basis. Once again, a high English proficiency is very important, so that conversation would flow more naturally and students do not rush searching for some comfort within students from the same nationality. Therefore, I propose that every programme orienting students for an international job market have a 2.5 credits course focusing on improving students’ writing and communication skills in English. Lectures and workshops are of mandatory presence. Furthermore, all Master programmes taught in Dutch shall have a course in the same format, however, focusing on increasing students awareness for the advantages of internationalisation, globalisation, inclusivity & diversity.
Plan incentivising Student & Study Associations to integrate international students
Integrating in the student community is easier by becoming a member of a Student and/or Study Associations, however, internationals students always struggle to integrate these associations because the main spoken language in English. There are Student Associations such as ESN and Buddy Go Dutch where the official spoken language is English, however, this only contributes more to increase the number of internationals that start living in a bubble. My propose is to facilitate international students’ integrating in other Associations, by providing these Associations with facilitating tools, such as a PR commissioner focused in promoting internationalisation or official translation of their website and documents.
Project budget for Dutch classes, documents’ translation and translator for Faculty Councils managed at a central level
This project focus on centralizing budget decisions regarding the provision of Dutch classes, documents’ translations and a translator to internationals non-Dutch speaking students with a seat in a Faculty Council. Every student member has the right to participate and if language is the reason why they are not able to participate, the University Council’s begrotings plan shall cover the necessity of Dutch classes, documents’ translation and a translator when necessary at both the University Council itself and at the Faculty Council level. However, this is not a budget that should be established for good, but dependent on the necessities of the international non-Dutch speaking students integrating one of these participation bodies: University or Faculty Council.