‘Provide more clarity about Yantai plans’
In order to regain the trust of the employees and staff and to fight back against rumours, the university board has to be open about its intentions in Yantai, according to the council – ‘including all positive and negative points, opportunities and risks’.
The parties have also asked for a business case to be made. ‘We need to have a clear story that addresses all of the current and potential problems that the university may encounter. We need a clear and honest summary of the risks and possible dangers’, remarked Alexander van ‘t Hof (SOG) on behalf of all the parties in the university council.
Additionally, the parties want to have access to all of the agreements that the RUG has signed with the parties in China. They also want to be informed in advance about the content of any agreements prior to them being signed. Finally, the council members request a timeline that makes clear at which point the university will officially decide whether or not to start a campus in Yantai.
RUG president Sibrand Poppema wanted to satisfy all of their demands, even though he says that it is difficult to provide a strict timetable. ‘For example, we don’t know exactly how long the Chinese ministry of education will take to process our eventual request. On average, it takes three months, but it could also take less time than that’, he said.
But before the request can be submitted to the Chinese ministry of education, the RUG first wants to sign one more agreement with the Chinese partner university. ‘That will be about guaranteeing academic freedom (on the campus, red.), free access to the internet and transparent quality assurance.’
According to Poppema, the RUG has asked a Chinese law office to look into the potential financial pitfalls for the university. ‘We cannot run any financial risk’, the president said.
One question still remained: why, exactly, are we going to Yantai? One important reason cited by Poppema is the falling numbers of Dutch students. ‘A decrease of 360 students means far fewer millions in funding for the university and therefore fewer jobs. I had not expected that the number of Dutch students would go down by so much already this year. We are actively pursuing a policy to attract more international students, but that has not turned out to be enough to make up for the decline in student numbers.’
The university board says that is the reason that it’s of great importance to attract international students via the campus in Yantai, even though those students are not required to come to Groningen. ‘Still, I am convinced that a portion of those students will come here. Not because they have to, but because they want to spend a year abroad. A year studying abroad is valuable to them and it won’t cost them much more’, Poppema said.
But personnel faction member Antoon de Baets said that assumption is based mostly on wishful thinking. ‘We think that more students will come to Groningen. But can you not calculate various scenarios so that we can have a better grip on that?’, he asked Poppema.
‘No one could have foreseen that there would be such a large decline in the students this year. The pre-enrolments did not give any indication of this. You can make all the estimates you like, but there will always be these sorts of things that play a role’, Poppema replied. Still, he promised that he would have estimates created.