FEB not going to Yantai
The Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences (FMNS) and FEB were tapped last year to teach several of their English-language programmes at the planned branch campus in the north-eastern Chinese city of Yantai. However, no FEB programmes were included in the definitive list of those heading to Asia posted on the MyUniversity Infonet page on Thursday.
Half a dozen FMNS programmes are planned for export to the Chinese branch. The bachelor programmes for Chemistry, Industrial Engineering & Management, Life Science & Technology, and Mathematics will be considered, as well as two masters – Chemical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering, which is offered in cooperation with the Faculty of Medical Sciences.
The master programme of Environmental & Infrastructure Planning from the Faculty of Spatial Sciences is also on the list. In a brief response via email, dean of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences, Oscar Couwenberg, did not elaborate on how his faculty got involved: ‘In the near future, we will be working together closely with the Board of Directors about the details of the plans’, Couwenberg writes.
Chairperson of the spatial sciences Faculty Council, Erik Meijles, says that the decision to involve the faculty appears to have been made in short order. ‘As I understand it, it all went very quickly between our faculty board and the Board of Directors. We were informed about this last week: the Faculty Council has yet to adopt a position on the matter.’
It also happened quite suddenly at UMCG, over the course of a couple of weeks. Professor Bart Verkerke, chairperson of the Biomedical Engineering master’s programme, says that he was approached about what the programme would think about starting classes in Yantai, but that was as far as it went.
‘It’s all a bit unexpected, I have to say’, Verkerke says. ‘We still have to figure out what our exact position is. In principle, we’re open to being experimental, but there simply must be better communication. By going about it this way, it’s difficult to really take stock and to generate the necessary support.’
A good fit
Even though the decision to include programmes from these two faculties had not been openly mentioned before, RUG spokesperson Gernant Deekens says that the deans of all of the RUG faculties have been closely involved in, and informed about, the Yantai plans from the very beginning.
‘We want to provide an attractive and varied group of programmes in Yantai with the intention of establishing a broad research university there. The master’s programme from Spatial Sciences fits very well into this approach.’
Kees van Veen, chairperson of the Faculty Council of economics and business, says that they consider postponing FEB’s involvement to be ‘a wise decision, given the lack of support within the faculty that we signalled at an earlier stage.’
In light of the misgivings within the faculty about the lack of details in the plans, FEB formed the Yantai Advisory Committee last year to look into the matter. Their report, released last fall, enumerated many concerns held by the staff of the faculty. This semester, the faculty will contribute to the creation of a business case, the lack of which was identified among the shortcomings of the plans thus far by the advisory committee.
‘The current decision provides a better opportunity for developing a business case for FEB that generates faculty-wide support for the Yantai endeavour’, Van Veen says. ‘The Faculty Council will continue to follow the discussions and decision-making processes on the Yantai project, and is looking forward to future discussions on this matter.’
On the Infonet page announcing the definitive list of programmes, the decision to at least postpone FEB’s involvement was attributed to the situation remaining ‘too uncertain’ and the fact that interest in economics and business degrees in China is reportedly in decline. The University Board and faculty board also aspire to ‘generate more support’ within the faculty itself, where staff have expressed concerns about the plans throughout recent months.
Casper Albers, member of the staff faction of the University Council, also says that he personally thinks that FEB getting an extra year is a good thing. ‘It goes without saying that we were aware that the resistance at FEB (from the Faculty Council to the staff) was quite a bit greater than that at FMNS’, he says.
Despite consultation with the university faculties about the definitive list, Albers says that the University Council was not consulted or informed about the changes beforehand.
In light of economics and business’s initial lack of participation, the start date of several programmes – the Mathematics bachelor, the Environmental and Infrastructure Planning master and the Biomedical Engineering master – will be moved up instead. ‘These programmes are very popular in China. And together with the other degrees mentioned above, they form an attractive package of programmes’, the Infonet page reads.
The curricula for all of the programmes must be submitted for approval by the Chinese Ministry of Education. That step will be taken after China Agricultural University has submitted the application for the branch campus to the province of Shandong.
If the plans are ultimately approved by the authoritative bodies, a preparatory year is scheduled to begin in September 2017 and academic degree programmes for the RUG should follow in 2018.
UPDATE: Gerry Wakker, dean of the Faculty of Arts, stated during the Faculty Council meeting on Friday that the faculty was pushed to volunteer two of their programmes – European Languages and Cultures and International Relations and International Organization – to go to Yantai ahead of schedule, but the involved departments refused.
‘We are not on that list, and that was a sustained effort’, Wakker said. ‘We were put under immense pressure to start in 2017. We were able to push back against that effort. The Faculty Board discussed the possibilities with the two programmes and they put the brakes on that straight away. That was a bit tense, but eventually our argument was heard. In the 2019-2020 academic year, we are supposed to begin there, but the only plan that is certain is the group that was announced for 2017. The rest will come later, so that does not concern us.’