Science - March 3, 2005

Advice for Chinese

Of the group of Chinese BSc students who came to Wageningen University last year, a large number are still having difficulties in adjusting to the Dutch education system. Their academic performance is lagging far behind that of their fellow students. Last week, the university rector Professor Bert Speelman announced that he plans to invite them to meet him personally to discuss their problems. Together they can seek solutions, which may include suggesting alternatives such as transferring to an ‘hbo programme’.

‘Some of the first group of Chinese bachelor students are not doing well. We’ve already tried a number of things to help them, such as individual classes and English courses. But there are about forty students who are still having problems,’ tells rector Bert Speelman. ‘A number will at some point have to decide that they cannot continue. There are also Dutch students who don’t make it to the finish. In consultation with the Chinese Agricultural University in Beijing we have therefore decided to discuss other opportunities with the students who are having difficulties. One alternative is to become more professionally oriented. We of course have good relations with the Van Hall Larenstein University of Professional Education, where there are already many Chinese students.’

Speelman emphasises that students will not be forced to stop their studies, as would have become possible if the ‘binding study advice’ had been introduced. ‘What we are not going to do is to come up with retrospective measures. That would be unethical, even immoral, and I do not intend to do that.’ If the students decide they do want to continue in Wageningen, it will not necessarily mean that they have to follow the regular courses. Speelman: ‘For the most extreme cases we could have Chinese teachers come over from China, or ask Chinese postdocs here to teach. The students would then receive a certificate for the courses they have completed, but to get a BSc degree they will have to fulfil all the requirements.’

Speelman hopes to avoid similar problems in the future by tightening up the admissions selection procedure. ‘We have agreed with the people at the Chinese university that we will continue our relationship. In April or May a group of Wageningen lecturers and students will go to China, and we hope that they will gain more insight into and understanding of the future students, and also have a say in which students come this way. Ultimately it is our responsibility to make sure that we make a good selection.’ /JH

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