Rising nationalism and global scepticism, combined with Brexit and Trumpism, signal that English may be losing some of its appeal or legitimacy. The broader and perhaps more interesting question is whether the italian court decision, to push back on the race towards english courses, will give momentum to a backlash that slowly has been taking shape, especially in Northern European countries where English courses have been prominent.
This confluence of forces has spurred France's President Emmanuel Macron to fill the void in world leadership, repeatedly forecasting that French will take its place as the number one language in the world. Notwithstanding the French bravado, English as the dominant lingua franca is not about to retreat in the near future. The global economy is far too dependent on it.
In the Netherlands, where 20% of bachelor programmes and 60% of masters programmes are taught in English, the organisation Better Education Netherlands (BON) has gathered close to 6,000 signatures on a 'manifesto' and has threatened to sue the Dutch government for failure to enforce a law requiring that education and examinations must be taken in Dutch, with few exceptions. A 2015 poll of Dutch university students found that 60% complained of lecturers whose English was incomprehensible. A report commissioned by the Dutch ministry of education and published in 2017 by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences raised concerns about the quality of English language programmes. It advised universities to pay closer attention to the language skills of students and professors and to exercise more thought in selecting courses offered in English based on subject and learning objectives. More recently the rector of the University of Amsterdam called for a balance to be struck between Dutch and English courses.
In Germany academics have launched a campaign, ADAWIS, against the predominance of English in scientific publications. The Language Council of Norway has raised concerns that many students whose entire programme is in English may not have sufficient mastery of the language to succeed and that the vast majority of graduates enter the Norwegian labour market where English proficiency is not essential. A Manifesto in Defence of Scientific Multilingualism, originating in Spain and published in seven languages, has now gathered close to 8,000 signatures of well-known scholars throughout Europe. Aimed at the European Union, the manifesto challenges requirements from European scientific committees that funding proposals be written in English.
Whether the Polytechnic Institute of Milan's decision to offer all graduate programmes in English will inspire any of these movements to seek a legal resolution remains to be seen. At the very least the several opinions that have emerged from the Italian courts in the course of the litigation provide a well-developed rationale and framework for moving forward the discussion on what is gained, what is lost and how the dangers can be mitigated when using English as a vehicle for 'internationalising' universities. (Fonte: R. Salomone, http://www.universityworldnews.com 03-02-18)