This is a corrected version of this article. In the original version and in our newsletter for Wednesday, 14 December, it was erroneously reported that the RUG would only be able to begin in Yantai in 2019. This error arose from a misunderstanding.
The minister made that known on Wednesday in the Lower House. The RUG wants to start the campus in September 2017, but according to Bussemaker, that will not be possible. ‘The RUG cannot move forward because the review of the plans has to be safeguarded in the law. As long as that is not legally enshrined, then I cannot approve of it. And we still need to have that.’
The current law does not permit setting up an entire campus in a foreign country. The changes that have to be made to the law will be debated next summer. Once that has happened, then the law will still have to be approved by both houses of the Dutch parliament. ‘The RUG can only start in the autumn of 2018’, Bussemaker says.
According to documents from the university, the minister had made assurances that the legal changes would be finalised before March 2017, just before the Lower House elections. Now that that is no longer the case, the elections could have a significant impact on the university’s plans.
The Yantai plans are ‘an enormous undertaking’, the minister says. ‘They are very large in scope, and as such, they have to be carefully reviewed and the risks must be assessed’, she says. The changes to the law, which will make it possible for Dutch universities to offer academic programmes in their entirety abroad, must enable the minister to take care of the review.
‘Institutions cannot just move forward with these sorts of plans, they have to have ministerial approval – especially in light of the risks involved. If they are not adequately protected, that could come at the expense of Dutch students and Dutch education. That would be unspeakable and unacceptable’, the education minister says.
According to Bussemaker, a partition between public and private financing is crucial. ‘There will be a Great Wall of China separating these funding sources. It can never be the case that – in the event that an initiative were to fail – that money would come from the public coffers. The financing and quality assurance for Dutch education can never be allowed to suffer as a result.’
A mass exodus of instructors from the Netherlands to Yantai cannot be permitted, either. Bussemaker says, ‘That would be detrimental to the Dutch students. But I also do not have the impression that that is what the RUG is planning.’
More updates to follow.