Groningen university appoints a professor of Frisian after all

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

The University of Groningen has now appointed a professor of Frisian language and culture following a storm of protest at the abolition of the post last year.

When the last professor retired, the university decided to employ a senior lecturer for the post, in contravention of a provincial funding agreement which stipulates a professorship. The university said at the time it had been unable to find the right candidate for the job.

That claim was disputed by Arjen Dijkstra, director of the Frisian historical centre Tresoar, and others. ‘There are at least ten suitable candidates in the field of Frisian studies who could take up the professorship,’ Dijkstra said at the time.

Some 70 writers, scientists and administrators wrote to the university in protest while home affairs minister Hanke Bruins Slot said she worried about the conservation of Frisian, which is the Netherlands’ second official language.

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

Arjen Versloot, who is also professor of German literature at the University of Amsterdam, has now been appointed to the job for five years and will work in the province two days a week.

‘This will give us time to look for a permanent professor of Frisian while at the same time guaranteeing the continued study of Frisian at university level,’ dean of the literature department Thony Visser told local broadcaster RTV Noord.

The province of Groningen, which is providing the subsidy for the professorship said it was satisfied about the new appointment. ‘We now have a capable professor at Groningen university once again, official Sietske Poepjes said.

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