News - April 16, 2015

Groningen gets Chinese campus Wageningen turned down

Albert Sikkema

The University of Groningen (RUG) is going to move into a vast unoccupied campus in the Chinese city of Yantai. Four years ago, this campus was offered to Wageningen by the Chinese Agricultural University (CAU), but our university turned it down.

Groningen announced at the end of March that it would be starting a campus in China with programmes for about 10,000 students. The RUG will collaborate on this with the CAU, which built a campus in the city of Yantai 10 years ago but never got to use it. Groningen will now make use of the 110-hectare readymade campus. The programmes offered in Yantai will mainly be technical ones, but ‘we are no strangers to agriculture and agribusiness either,’ says spokesperson Gernant Deekens.

Wageningen University is looking at the Groningen campus in China with interest. Four years ago, the CAU approached Wageningen UR too about taking over the Yantai campus, says Xiaoyong Zhang, Wageningen UR’s business developer in China. Wageningen UR decided against it at that time. There were two reasons for that, says director of Wageningen International Huub Loffler. Firstly, the board doubted whether they could keep up educational standards on a campus like that in China. Secondly, the campus did not fit into Wageningen UR’s strategy, in which the board opts for an emphasis on distance education and MOOCs rather than a physical presence in emerging economies. Eventually, Groningen aims at 7000 Bachelor’s students, 2500 Master’s students and 500 PhD students in China. Per programme, one of two academics from Groningen will have to go to China to run the programmes together with international staff. A big advantage is that all Bachelor’s programmes at Groningen University are already run in English.

The administrative process of reaching a deal on the campus only took six weeks, says Deekens. ‘The campus fell into our lap.’ At an earlier stage, the University of Dublin had decided to run the campus together with the CAU, but after a change of governing body in Dublin the Irish university changed its mind at the end of 2014. This month Wageningen UR received another offer from a Chinese university to open a campus there. It does not seem likely that the executive board will take up the offer, though. According to ‘our woman in China’ Xiaoyong Zhang, there are more opportunities for DLO than for the university in China. ‘DLO can make deals with Chinese companies and organizations on interesting contract research in the fields of horticulture, animal breeding and food safety. To obtain more contracts with Chinese clients, it is useful to have a presence on the ground there.’ But you do not have to start a campus to do that, is the conclusion in Wageningen.