The number of English taught programmes in Dutch higher education have risen tremendously in the last fifteen years. A wide array of critics raised concerns about possible negative effects. For instance, English supposedly would have a negative effect on academic performance. Secondly, the English of lecturers teaching through a foreign language would have a negative impact on students’ learning. Thirdly, the increase of English in higher education might have a negative effect on the quality and position of the Dutch language. Groningen University PhD Folkert de Jong conducted research into the use of English in higher professional education.

The research question was: What are the effects of English as a medium of instruction in higher education on academic performance? In order to answer this question, three studies were conducted at the International Business & Management Studies programme at NHL Stenden university of applied sciences in Leeuwarden and Qatar. The first study established a very weak relationship between entrance levels of English and academic performance. In the second study, students’ language use was traced through an app. It turned out that students in Leeuwarden used English only when engaged with their studies. In Qatar, English was used also in personal life. The third study revealed that lecturers and students in Leeuwarden and Qatar experience a positive effect of English taught education on their English language proficiency. Moreover, they reported no negative effects of English on knowledge and skills.

Objections to the use of English as a language of communication in higher education are rarely based on scientific research, according to De Jong. In the little research that has been done, little support can be found for the objections. De Jong, therefore, concludes that these objections are largely exaggerated.

Photo Angeline Swinkels