Questions about Yantai

RUG president Sibrand Poppema addressed nearly one hundred employees at the Bernoulliborg about the University's partnership with China Agricultural University. He had some answers, but the staff had many critical questions.

In 2017, the RUG is meant to begin teaching its first students at University of Groningen-Yantai. But a whole lot has to happen between now and then. ‘And the sooner we can start, the better, because we are aware that it’s a tight timeframe’, president Poppema concedes.

The staff of the Faculty of Economics and Business and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences are well aware of that, too. Poppema addressed nearly one hundred employees of the two faculties in a very full lecture hall at the Bernoulliborg about the Yantai plans so far late Tuesday afternoon.

The faculties were chosen in part due to their English-taught courses offerings. Groningen currently has 22 English-taught programmes, and Poppema says Yantai could eventually offer 20 of them if everything goes according to plan. But the assembled staff had many critical questions about just how plausible it is that everything will work out on schedule, and they fired every question they had at the president for more than an hour.


The president had an answer for some of them, but not all. Multiple questions were posed about how many RUG employees would be needed for the first year. Using the chemistry department as an example, Poppema projects that two to three RUG staffers, two Chinese instructors and two international employees would be needed at first.

However, quite a few in the crowd questioned the University’s ability to attract high quality staff to teach at the branch, particularly if it would come at the expense of Groningen losing its best and brightest.

When questions of costs inevitably came up, Poppema reiterated that Yantai will be paying every penny of the operation for the first five years. ‘The reason the city wants to invest in this is because they need students to work at the companies in the city, and they want the school itself to collaborate with those Chinese and international companies.’

Better paid

As for student tuition fees and staff compensation, Poppema also offered some clarity. The proposed cost for attendance will be 12,000 euros. More interesting to the audience was the president’s assertion that RUG staff who choose to go to Yantai will be paid the same wages, if not more, for teaching in China. The non-RUG staff who are hired to teach at Yantai will have to come to Groningen for teacher training, according to the proposed charter.

Although CAU has dealt with two missed opportunities in the past – a policy change preventing branches and University College Dublin backing out – Poppema says that Wageningen University did not present a third disappointment. According to Resource, a business developer for the Dutch university in China was approached about working with China Agricultural University, but a Wageningen University spokesperson clarifies that the offer never formally reached the board of directors for consideration.

‘Between us and ourselves’

But for the RUG staff, accreditation and quality assurance were the overriding concerns. Poppema has a ready answer: due to the existing arrangement from the NVAO – the Dutch accreditation agency – requiring international branch campus students to spend at least one year in the Netherlands, the Yantai plan amounts to ‘a double degree between us and ourselves’, Poppema says.

In that arrangement, ‘us’ is the RUG and ‘ourselves’ is the University of Groningen-Yantai. RUG lawyers, the NVAO and the Dutch ministry of education appear to agree that the three years students spend at the Yantai would not reflect on Groningen’s accreditation.

The current phase of development is a memorandum of understanding between the RUG and CAU, and a charter for the new university. The next step is for Groningen to submit their requirements for the campus and a budget proposal to the city of Yantai. The plans still require approval by the province of Shandong and the Chinese Ministry of Education after that.

Groningen has two years and five months to staff the new university, but there is a window of opportunity that would have to close before that: the RUG has up to a year for a ‘go or no go’ decision – but once they have recruited students, they can no longer back out.