10 December 2021

A council year is very good for your English

Our Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is a university, with students from very diverse backgrounds.  The VU has a broad language policy. The goal of that language policy is to identify and remove barriers in the area of language proficiency among students and employees, both for the Dutch and English language.

English provides access to international staff/students, but at the same time can be an obstacle for some Dutch speakers. Not every student is required to master English for his or her studies. In addition, in some layers of the VU, there are employees who do not speak English.

The strength of diversity in the representative body is that there are employees and students from all layers of the university who can stand for election to the representative body. The question arises of how to be inclusive but at the same time not exclude others.

The participation members can follow a course in English or Dutch at the VU's expense

The working language of the joint meeting and the joint consultation meeting within the VU is currently in Dutch. To accommodate members who cannot speak Dutch, an interpreter is present. As a result, everyone from the participation group is always involved in the important decisions that are made at the VU. The documents that are relevant to these meetings are available in both Dutch and English. The VU is committed to internationalization. As a result, the participation council is a good reflection of the campus. The voice of the international council member counts.

In addition, the participation members can follow a course in English or Dutch at the VU's expense, in order to actively participate in the meetings. The VU also offers a course for participation members to become familiar with the administrative jargon.

However, the internal meetings within the USR are in English. For those who are less familiar with the English language (like me), it takes some getting used to in the beginning. Of course, you are helped by the fact that your fellow council members can supplement or correct you. It might be a little awkward at first, but in the end it will be very valuable to increase your English skills through a year on the board.

One thing is for sure. It is one of the best ways to improve your English.

Ibrahim Atay


Ibrahim Atay USR



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