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Tilburg University: English test for everybody

3 March 2007, 13:56

As of this year all Tilburg University lecturers, students, policy advisors, service desk personnel, administrative personnel, and secretaries will be required to take an English-language test.

As of this year all Tilburg University lecturers, students, policy advisors, service desk personnel, administrative personnel, and secretaries will be required to take an English-language test. This was decided on Thursday 1 February, when the University Council adopted the action plan 'Towards an International Campus'.

Of Tilburg University's 1,800 employees, 1,000 will be required to take a test. The Language Centre, which is responsible for both the English-language courses and the examinations, plays a central role in these plans. On Thursday 15 February the Centre opened six new multimedia classrooms on the fifth and sixth floors of the Simon building, marking the occasion with a symposium on the 'bilingual campus'.

"Internationalization has become part of the very essence of the university", said Guust Meijers, head of the Language Centre, in opening the symposium. Robert Wilkinson, senior lecturer in English at the Maastricht University Language Centre, subsequently discussed the pros and cons of internationalization. He argued that any institution of higher education should go about introducing instruction in English very carefully. Maastricht University has some twenty years' experience with English-taught programmes. Almost all of the bachelor's programmes at the Faculty of Economics and Business Administration are taught in English.

"Introducing English-taught programmes changes everything", Wilkinson noted. "One of the risks is that good students may not be able to keep up because their English skills are not sufficient."

Wilkinson warned that increased internationalization entails more than teaching in English. The course material, the composition of staff and students, and university policy and culture changes as well. As a consequence, the university may become alienated from the local community that surrounds it.

Despite these risks, Hans-Georg van Liempd, head of the International Office at Tilburg University, expects that internationalization will only increase at Tilburg University. "But how far should we take this? Should we become like universities in Canada, with English and French as official languages, or Swiss universities, which are also completely bilingual in French and German?" //Dennis Nuiten

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