More flexible Dutch-language requirements for foreign academics


Researchers from overseas will now have five years instead of three to reach the required level of Dutch, at the request of Flanders’ universities

Knowledge economy

The government of Flanders is introducing more flexible language requirements for foreign academics, at the request of universities. While academics from abroad currently need to pass a Dutch language test within three years to become tenured, they will now get five years.

Flemish universities have been appealing for an adjustment to the regulation for several years. They pointed out that three years is too short, as this often means academics have to take 12 hours of Dutch classes each week while giving lessons and developing a research group. According to universities, the regulation sometimes discouraged top international researchers from coming to Flanders.

Because of the legislative change, foreign academics will have five years to reach level B2 in Dutch, which represents an “advanced” ability. The professors will have to reach the “basic” level, A2, two years after their appointment.

“Flanders is showing a more welcoming attitude towards foreign researchers,” Rik Torfs, rector of the University of Leuven, told De Morgen. “In Flanders we are rightfully sensitive about the protection of Dutch, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of the internationalisation of higher education.”

In a statement, education minister Hilde Crevits said: “We are giving a strong signal that Dutch remains the most important education language in Flanders and that the knowledge of it is essential for integration.

“At the same time, we are actively working on putting Flanders on the global map as a knowledge economy.”

Photo: Rob Stevens/KU Leuven