It’s possible the UG will continue its collaboration with the Confucius Institute (CI) even after 2025. Although the university will no longer be an official partner, it might need the CI for classes on the Chinese language and culture.
Last week, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences announced that when their contract ends in 2025, they will break off all contact with the institute. The UG won’t quite go that far yet; it’s currently figuring out if and how it would be able to provide education in the Chinese language and culture itself.
However, the university is cutting formal ties, such as the annual contribution of 27,500 euros in operational costs, when the contract ends. ‘They have to figure out if they can be financially independent from us’, says UG spokesperson Elies Kouwenhoven.
China is an important topic in academia and the university doesn’t think it will be able to provide the necessary expertise on it in the short term. ‘We’re now trying to work out whether we’ll be able to collaborate with them at all. Because it’s important to maintain knowledge of the language and the culture.’
The Confucius institutes have been under fire for several due to the overarching organisation they fall under: the Hanban. Officially, this organisation is focused ‘making educational resources and services for the Chinese language and culture available to the world’.
But both domestically and internationally, the organisation is considered to a political extension and propaganda machine for the communist regime in Beijing. It’s also been linked to acts of censorship, espionage, and political interference from the Communist Party.
In February 2021, concerned Chinese students and student party De Vrije Student argued during a university council meeting that the university should break all ties with the institute. In March of that year, board president Jouke de Vries ordered an investigation into the administrative ties between the UG and the CI with the goal of creating some distance between the two.
In June 2021, former minister of education Ingrid Engelshoven also suggested the UG sever ties with the Confucius Institute to assuage concerns about academic freedom being corrupted. The UG then decided the institute would have to leave the university property it was housed.
Nearly a year later, the university decided to create more administrative distance by leaving the CI’s board. Until then, board president Jouke de Vries, as well as the Hanze board president, had both been board members at the institute. They then became the CI’s supervisory board.