Dutch university scraps Chinese campus degree plans

Groningen pulls out after concerns about academic freedom, costs and staffing 

January 30, 2018
Paper in bin

A Dutch university has scrapped plans to offer full degrees on a new campus in China following a row in the Netherlands about academic freedom and high costs.

The University of Groningen said on 29 January that it had decided not to seek approval from the Dutch minister of education, culture and science as there was "insufficient support" from the university council.

In 2015, the university announced plans to create a joint campus in Yantai, a port city south-east of Beijing, with China Agricultural University, offering degrees at undergraduate, master's and PhD level. They hoped to reach 3,000 students within three years of opening.

On its website, Groningen says that a "large part" of the new campus has "already been developed".

Sibrand Poppema, president of Groningen's board, said in a statement that the university "will cancel its plans to offer entire degree programmes under the responsibility of the UG [University of Groningen] in Yantai. In the near future we will investigate, together with the faculties and degree programmes, which other forms of collaboration are possible in Yantai."

The decision follows opposition in the Netherlands from academics, students and even some political parties. Academic freedom was one issue, as the ruling Communist Party seeks greater control  over international campuses opened with Western universities. Local press reports suggested a party secretary would have had a place on the new campus' board.

But there were also concerns that the campus was distracting the university from its mission at home, as well as over costs and staffing.

Groningen would have been the first Dutch university to open a branch campus in China, following other Western institutions such as the University of Nottingham and New York University.

david.matthews@timeshighereducation.com

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