Faculties prepare for China

The two faculties tapped to set up in Yantai – FEB and FMNS – are adjusting to the news. FEB has named two programmes it will export to China, but FMNS has yet to name their programmes going abroad.

Two programmes from the Faculty of Economics and Business are likely headed to the China campus: the bachelor programme of Economics and Business Economics and the master’s programme for International Economics and Business.

During the visit by the delegation from China Agricultural University a few weeks ago, the Chinese guests expressed an interest in those programmes specifically, says Faculty of Economics and Business dean Harry Garretsen.

In total, four RUG bachelor programmes and two masters are meant to get the University of Groningen Yantai off the ground starting in 2017, according to Garretsen.

‘Like a pressure cooker’

Garretsen admits that the pace of the plans has been remarkably fast thus far. ‘Normally, you would take your time and sit down to deal with these questions. But this is like a pressure cooker. We have a university board to make these strategic decisions, and they thought that this would be a good moment to make this decision.’

Even though the plans have come together quickly, mathematics and natural sciences dean Jasper Knoester says he knew FMNS might contribute to the China curriculum more than two months ago. Although the faculty has yet to name them, Knoester says the faculty already knows which programmes they plan to export. But until a contract has been officially signed, Knoester does not yet want to make the programme choice known publicly.

All courses in China

However, Knoester says the plan is to ultimately offer all FMNS courses in China. ‘We want to have basically all of our programmes up and running there over the next four years or so. Everything is meant to be taught there eventually.’

While the faculty council of FEB has begun discussing the Yantai plans, FMNS has not yet brought the matter to its own council. But Knoester says the choice of which programmes to develop in China isn’t up to the faculty council.

‘I think that decision falls to the consortium who will submit the plans to the Chinese ministry’, Knoester says. ‘The faculty boards, together with the board of directors, will discuss that with the involved programme personnel themselves.’

FMNS faculty chairperson Lucia van der Voort says herself that it may be a bit too early for the council to be involved. ‘I know that our dean is personally interested in these plans, but we as a council don’t know anything other than the formal plans that have been presented so far’, she says.

‘The speed is a bit worrying’

Although the FEB faculty council has been given some insight into the plans, council member Kees van Veen says the breakneck pace of negotiations so far is concerning.

‘The council is worried about the lack of information about this high-risk plan. It has a lot of positive potential, but we have the impression that there’s also a lot of risk for faculties to get involved. The speed is a bit worrying’, he says.

RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens says, even though the RUG will be sending another delegation to visit China in May, there is unlikely to be much more information available for the involved faculties by then.

Garretsen is well aware of the logistical challenges. ‘All the faculties of Groningen will have to answer very important questions about governance, staff, capacity and financial implications. There are lots of questions that the university board and the faculty boards don’t yet have any answers to. That’s very much a work in progress.’

‘We cannot duplicate ourselves’

As for staffing challenges, Knoester believes that there will be personnel in his faculty who will jump at the chance. ‘I think that it’s inevitable that people will need to be encouraged in the first years to lecture there, but I also think there will absolutely be people who are prepared to go. By and large, everyone I have spoken with so far has been positive.’

Dean Garretsen adds that Yantai will have to hire new staff members to meet the projected demand rather than relying on RUG-based instructors. ‘The city of Yantai and the province of Shandong are willing to invest heavily not just in facilities but also in new staff. So the precise model about the distribution – how many people from Groningen are either quasi fixed or on a temporary basis in comparison to the new hires, international or Chinese – is still very much under discussion.’

‘We cannot duplicate ourselves and we’re already quite busy here’, he says. ‘So there will be some staff from Groningen who will want to go for a shorter or longer period, but the main part has to come from new staff members.’