‘Groningen cannot suffer for Yantai’

Students in Groningen can never be made to suffer as a result of the campus that the RUG wants to set up in Yantai, according to minister Bussemaker. The Chinese branch has to contribute to the quality of education and research here, she says.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Traci White

The programmes in Yantai have to have some added value for the education that is provided by the university in the Netherlands. Through short term exchanges of students and instructors, increasing contract between students from different countries or sharing educational insights are examples of potential contributions named by minister Bussemaker in her written response to questions posed by members of the Lower House regarding legal changes that will make transnational education – and thereby the campus in Yantai – possible.

The Lower House will discuss the legislative changes in February. The debate will determine whether university can offer programmes abroad in their entirety, pending approval by the education minister.


The RUG’s plans would not be approved if too many of its best employees were to go to Yantai, because that would come at the expense of education offered in Groningen, according to Bussemaker. The RUG will also have to ensure the academic freedom and safety of students and staff at the foreign branch.

Furthermore, Bussemaker says that permission may be denied if there are insufficient measures taken to guarantee that the quality of education will be preserved, if too little is done to diminish financial risk or if the academic activities could be damaging to diplomatic relations with the country where the campus is located.

A branch campus abroad must serve societal interest, not economic interests, she says. ‘The government does not regard higher education as a market based on supply and demand and focused on profit.’ The recruitment of more foreign students to compensate for the stagnating number of Dutch student is therefore not a valid reason to open the campus in Yantai, Bussemaker states.


The programmes in the Netherlands and China will be connected to each other. The Groningen home base and the campus in China will undergo the same programme assessment by the Dutch accreditation organisation, NVAO. The NVAO and Dutch Inspectorate for Education will have oversight on the quality of both programmes. As such, the minister proposes the condition that the Dutch entities must assess the foreign programmes. If China does not agree to that, then the campus will not move forward.

If the inspectorate determines that the programme in Yantai is not up to standard, the NVAO can intervene. According to Bussemaker, the university will then have two options: either improve the programme in China or close the Yantai campus. The Groningen programmes cannot suffer at their expense.

Tuition fees

No Dutch government money will go toward the Chinese programmes, which translates into tuition fees being considerably higher there: roughly 12,000 euros. Dutch students who go to Yantai for the entirety of their degree will have to pay the same. ‘The RUG can set up a grant programme for students’, Bussemaker says. The tuition fees will not be covered by Dutch government financing, either.

According to the RUG, the University of Groningen Yantai (UGY) will be financed by the city of Yantai, the students who will study there and revenue from Chinese research subsidies.

The Lower House debate about the legislative changes and the implementation of the campus in China are scheduled for 13 February. The RUG board is pleased with the minister’s response, says spokesperson Gernant Deekens. ‘We completely agree. Her comments are in keeping with how we have developed our plans’, he says,

If the Lower House approves of the legal changes, that does not mean that all hurdles are cleared. The accompanying general order of council, which will enumerate the criteria that the minister will use for approving of a campus, will be discussed this summer. Only after that has been established can the RUG officially request to begin the campus. The Chinese ministry of education will also have to approve of the plans.



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