Pricey visit to Yantai campus

On Tuesday afternoon, a delegation consisting of 48 RUG employees set off to Yantai to visit the future branch campus. The trip – which will cost approximately 70,000 euros – appears to be part of a charm offensive by the RUG board in the hopes of garnering more support for the branch campus.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Staff and students from the faculties Science and Engineering (FSE), Spatial Sciences (SS), UMCG, and Behavioural and Social Sciences (BSS) are travelling to China, accompanied by the Board of Directors. Representatives of the University Council and various faculty councils are also on the trip. The editor-in-chief of the UK was invited by the Board of Directors to report on the visit.

According to the RUG, it is a working visit to reach agreements on which programmes should be taught in Yantai starting in 2019. But the trip also seems to be aimed at dispelling the resistance among students and staff on the co-determination boards. This summer, they will be called on to consent to the programmes going to Yantai, as well as the application the RUG will submit to the Education ministry to set up the campus.

Caramel waffles

The representatives of the University Council and a RUG spokesperson will first travel to Ningbo to visit the University of Nottingham’s branch campus. This is the oldest foreign branch campus in China and is organisationally comparable to the University of Groningen Yantai.

There, they will get a tour of the campus, a welcome dinner with the rector and university staff, and they will be meeting the representative of the Communist Party at the Ningbo campus. The editor-in-chief at the UK will have a separately arranged meeting with staff and students.

After that, the group will travel on to Yantai, where they will be joining the rest of the RUG delegation. The group has brought cans of Dutch caramel waffles, a RUG tie, and a box of speculaas cookies to give to their hosts.

Costs

The visit is fairly pricey. Travel costs for the entire delegation alone amount to over 66,000 euros. The eight employees staying at the HIlton hotel in Ningbo is costing the RUG almost 50 euros per person. In Yantai, the group will be staying at the hotel on campus for two nights. Then there are the costs for bus transport (approximately 336 euros), and food.

Like all of the other preparation costs, the trip is being paid for with private money, for example from income from contact education and research.

In order to access the internet in China, the visitors will use a VPN connection. A VPN service encrypts and re-routes internet traffic to allow users access to websites and online services that are blocked by a country. However, China has proved adept at blocking the VPN services as well. The Chinese government has already blocked the app Tunnelbear, which the RUG has used before.

The information leaflet the RUG travellers were given states that academic freedom and unrestricted internet access are guaranteed at the future campus in Yantai. The RUG, the Chinese partner university, and the city of Yantai have reached an agreement to this end. How this unrestricted internet access will be taken care of when the campus opens up in 2018, however, is as yet unknown.

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