Only 700 students are studying Dutch at degree level in the Netherlands after a decade-long slump in enrolments, official figures show.
Last year, just 222 undergraduates in the Netherlands chose to study Dutch language and literature courses at one of their universities, which is 60 per cent lower than in 2007, according to the Association of Universities in the Netherlands.
This year, just 54 first-year students were enrolled to study Dutch at the University of Amsterdam, while only six had signed up to the degree at Vrije University (VU) Amsterdam, according to news website I am Expat.
With six staff members to six new students, there are now fears that the degree will need to close.
“Now we have to decide: are we going to go ahead with the programme or not?” said Diederik Oostdijk, head of language, literature and communication at VU, who believes that the closure of Dutch degree programmes would have implications for national identity and solidarity.
“Language is what connects us; it is part of the Dutch identity,” he said.
Interest in Dutch as a degree has declined for several reasons, including the growing number of English-taught degrees, the popularity of technical programmes and the rise in international students, added Professor Oostdijk.
The manner in which Dutch is taught at secondary schools may also explain its fall in popularity at degree level, with critics claiming that there is too much of a focus on competencies and too little on literature.
However, many more students are studying Dutch outside the Netherlands than inside it, with an estimated 14,000 taking the subject elsewhere, particularly in Poland, where it is considered useful for businesses trading with the Netherlands.