Groningen University is putting Frisian studies at risk: NRC

Groningen University's main admin building. Photo:
Groningen University’s main admin building. Photo:

Groningen University, the only place where people can take a degree in the Frisian language and culture, is no longer employing a professor, in contravention of a provincial funding agreement, the NRC reports.

Some 60% of Frisians are Frisian speaking and a quarter of newcomers to province learns the language.

The last professor of Frisian, Goffe Jensma, a native of Groningen, left the post last year after 14 years in the job. In his place the university has now installed a senior lecturer for two days a week.

Frisian is the second national language of the Netherlands and has protected status, which is why the university receives an annual €110,000 in subsidies from the provincial authorities.

A condition stipulated in the contract, seen by the NRC, is that the university employ a professor. Between five and 15 students have graduated in Frisian at Groningen university in the last few years. The current tally is four students.

Some 70 writers, scientists and administrators have criticised the university in a letter while home affairs minister Hanke Bruins Slot said she worried about the conservation of Frisian.

The university said there had been no suitable candidates for the post but that is being disputed. ‘There are at least ten suitable candidates in the field of Frisian studies who could take up the professorship,’ Arjen Dijkstra, director of the Frisian historical centre Tresoar, told the paper, none of whom he said were approached by the university.

The last professor, Jensma, said the decline in the number of students came about because Frisian ‘got snowed under in the international competition at the university’.

Other smaller languages, such as Finnish and Hungarian have also disappeared but these can be studied in the countries of origin, Jensma said. If the university does not take the study of Frisian, a ‘language euthanasia’ threatens, he said.

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