Minister wants final say on Yantai campus

The RUG has to get approval from education minister Jet Bussemaker before opening a sister campus in China.

There is still too much uncertainty about the plans to determine whether a campus can proceed or not, Bussemaker says. But when the time comes, the RUG will have to discuss it with her first, Bussemaker announced in a statement to the House of Representatives. ‘In the event that I have any doubts about the desirability of the initiative or if it becomes apparent that the plans are not sufficiently guaranteed either qualitatively or financially, then I will intervene.’

Bussemaker’s remarks were in response to questions from Socialist Party representative Jasper van Dijk who, following an interview with RUG president Sibrand Poppema in de Volkskrant, referred to the university head as a ‘textbook example of a megalomanical leader’. In November, Van Dijk tweeted: ‘Poppema in reference to the project in China: ‘We arrived with the bus, and the building got bigger and bigger’ #ohman #delusionsofgrandeur #arrogance

No reason to stop

Van Dijk wanted to know if Bussemaker was still in a position to stop the plans for the campus in the Chinese city of Yantai. But the minister doesn’t see any reason to do so. It ties into the interest in creating space for transnational education.

‘The added value of transnational education is in the strengthening of international networks, gaining a better position for Dutch higher education abroad and facilitating exchanges among students and instructors. An eventual decline in the number of Dutch students is not reason enough unto itself to pursue transnational education.’

Finger on the pulse

That is why the minister is keeping her finger on the pulse. ‘It’s crucial that the RUG has broad public support within the institution and that the RUG meets all current regulations.’

Bussemaker was ‘concerned’ that former members of the University Council said in an interview with the UK that they felt cheated by the University board. As such, she has emphasised that students and staff in the representative councils must be included in the process. She has also called upon the Board to take the criticism in the report from the advisory committee of the Faculty of Economics and Business seriously. The RUG has indicated that they are doing so.


Bussemaker also says that she will remain in contact with the university about the potential financial risks of the branch campus in China. ‘Contrary to what was stated in [de Volkskrant], the ministry has not approved of a business case. A business case is still under development, even though there are provisional documents that have been shared.’

Bussemaker emphasises that the RUG cannot use any state funds – money which the university receives for education and research – to begin the campus in Yantai. However, she expresses that she has no problem with private financing.

The RUG has set aside 500,000 euros for 2015 and 2016 each to pay for the extra labour costs involved with preparations for the campus. Additionally, nearly 80,000 euros is also dedicated to covering consultancy costs, travel expenses and translations.


Poppema is pleased with the remarks. ‘They are logical, clear answers. The minister indicates that she is well informed and is interested in the amount of public support. But we have never done anything to the contrary. For the rest, she indicates that she is up-to-date and that she broadly supports the plans. We are satisfied with that.’

Bussemaker’s statement in Dutch is included below (scroll through the image to view the entire letter):