Homepage of the KU Leuven international symposium on internationalisation of universities and the national language, on the occasion of 50 years Leuven Flemish. Here, possible participants can find an introduction as well as links to the programme and registration.


On Friday 4 May 2018, KU Leuven organised a symposium to investigate the internationalisation of universities. The symposium was specifically aimed at the position of the own language at the university: together with internationalisation, the use of English is on the rise. In the context of the commemoration of 50 years Leuven Vlaams, KU Leuven wanted to have a closer look at the current status of Dutch – and by implication other small national languages – in the higher education system.

Throughout the day several aspects of the internationalisation policy were commented on, with specific attention for the relation with the own language and culture in each perspective. Can we become more international by having special attention for our own identity? How do we incorporate English while reinforcing the own language? The focus was also on contributions from all over Europe and the world: how do other regions deal with the dominance of English in higher education? Inspiration could be found in presentations from Scandinavia, the Baltic region, and Central Europe. Next to that, there were eye-opening testimonials from Wales, Catalonia, Aruba, and South-Africa, that indicated the importance of a vital own language in terms of identity and social equality.

The symposium ended with a round-table discussion. This once again led to the dilemma for scientists between the pure demands of science and communication, and the responsibility towards the own language. It resulted in a call for cooperation: the vitality of Danish, Slovenian, and Estonian, is closely linked to the vitality of Dutch – and the other way around. Together, it is possible to think of ways to reinforce the own language, and to ensure that science will not become monolingually English.

Professor Danny Pieters of KU Leuven listed some insights in a document with ten policy suggestions.