Organisation - April 24, 2014

China Town Wageningen

Roelof Kleis

The Chinese dominate in the picture of international students in Wageningen. The number of Chinese on campus has increased by a factor of three in five years. Almost half the Master’s students are Chinese in some programmes. Time for some facts.

You will notice the change at once if you have not been on campus for a few years. What a lot of Chinese! That is not just an impression — the figures show it really is the case. To get straight to the point: there are 536 Chinese students in Wageningen. Or 385 Master’s students, 148 PhD students and 3 Bachelor’s students, to be precise. That puts China far ahead of the other countries of origin for our international students.
But absolute numbers are not everything. A much more significant factor is the growth, which was meteoric a couple of years ago and is about 15 percent a year now. One in every ten Master’s students is Chinese and they make up a quarter of all international Master’s students. The numbers on some Master’s programmes are rising to somewhat worrying levels. Half the Food Safety students are Chinese and a third of the Food Technology and Food Quality Management students come from China. There is even concern about the dominance of a single foreign nationality and a special working group (The International Classroom) is investigating whether measures should be taken.

Rien Bor is one of those responsible for the recruitment of international students. He has a global network that he built up himself with 25 representatives. These are alumni who promote Wageningen for a fee after returning to their country of origin. They give information about Wageningen, hold talks at education fairs and act as a point of contact for interested candidates. Bor’s system is unique in the Netherlands and has served Wageningen well. The number of Chinese preliminary registrations for the next academic year currently stands at 486 already. ‘I expect to end up with about 600, of whom about 200 will eventually study here.’ 

The crowds in Wageningen are not an isolated phenomenon as large numbers of Chinese choose to study abroad. According to figures from Nuffic, a total of 645,000 Chinese were enrolled at foreign higher education institutions in 2011, 60 percent more than five years earlier. Most Chinese study in the US, or Japan and Australia, which are relatively close by. There were about 149,000 Chinese students in Europe in 2011, most of them in the United Kingdom, France and Germany.
The Netherlands is a minor player on the global and European scene. Nuffic’s figures show that 6910 Chinese studied here last year, of whom 2395 at an academic university. Delft attracts the most students, closely followed by Wageningen, Tilburg and Rotterdam. However, Wageningen has the highest proportion of Chinese students. 
Many of them choose a degree in nutrition. Bor says that is not due to a government strategy. ‘Food safety and food security are a big problem in China,’ says Bor. ‘Students are aware of that and that explains their preference for nutrition and the environment. But I don’t think it’s a specifically Chinese thing. You see the same thing in other countries with similar pro-



China itself has about 75 agricultural universities. Five of them operate at the national level. Wageningen has good contacts with three Chinese universities: China Agricultural University (CAU, Beijing), Nanjing Agricultural University (NAU) and Northwest A&F University (Yangling). Most Chinese students in Wageningen come from the east coast, the wealthiest part of the country. Chinese who go abroad for their Master’s have to pay for their own costs. Two years spent studying in Wageningen can easily cost 50,000 euros.  


Internationalisering in beeld, 2013 (Nuffic)
Education Monitor 13/14 (Wageningen UR)

Quality & Strategicv Information (Corporate ER&I, Wageningen UR)

Re:actions 4

  • Roelof Kleis

    error: The calculations of the percentages of first-year students from China in the various Master's programmes failed to include the Dutch students who had completed their Bachelor's The numbers should be smaller but the general picture remaines the same. In fact, the new top three Master's programmes with the most Chinese first-years (as at October 2013) all concern Food:
    1. Food Safety 41% (20 of the 49)
    2. Food Quality 29% (10 of the 34)
    3. Food Technology 23% (40 of the 172).

  • Yinghua Xiao

    "Chinese who go abroad for their Master’s have to pay for their own costs. Two years spent studying in Wageningen can easily cost 50,000 euros"

    Seriously? Chinese students and parents do not only keep eyes on Netherlands or Europe. The similar MSc programs (or called professional masters in some countries) definitely cost much more: tuition fee only, at UC Davis, a public university, US$36,780; at Connell U., private and public, US$47,050. If Wageningen U. can be considered as one of the world-class (life science) universities, what a good bargain Wageningen is!

  • Ralf Hartemink

    Being responsible for three Food programmes, each with high Chinese student numbers; I am not worrying. As long as there is not one very dominant group (whether Chinese, Dutch, Greek or whatever) I am not worried.

    Yes, we see an increase in Chinese students, but also in others, so the % of Chinese (or Dutch) is not too dominant.

  • Yinghua Xiao

    This article sounds objective, listing such numbers from relatively solid sources. However, missing two of the most important ones makes this piece of text misleading and discriminatory:

    1) The Tuition fee for non-EU citizens applying most of Chinese students studying in Wageningen (€14,875.- /year

    2) Percentage of self-funded Chinese students (Unknown, maybe available from Financial department of WU, but according to my expression, majority)

    So admit and appreciate, whoever you are, that Chinese students are the “cash cows” of Wageningen University, for each new building, for each new and fancy equipment, for each staff.

    “The numbers on some Master’s programmes are rising to somewhat worrying levels.” The author indicated. But in the following text and figure, no explanation about what worry exactly is and who has this worry. As far as I understand, the author worries about the high percentages in a few MSc programs. ??? Should I worry about high percentages of Korean and African students in Beijing Culture and Language University?


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  • Roelof Kleis

    correctie: bij de berekening van de percentages eerstejaars Chinese studenten in de diverse masters zijn de Nederlandse doorstromers uit de bachelorfase over het hoofd gezien. De percentages vallen daardoor lager uit, maar het beeld blijft hetzelfde. Sterker nog: de nieuwe top drie van masterstudies met de meeste eerstejaars uit China (per oktober 2013) bestaat volledig uit Food:
    1. Food Safety 41% (20 van 49)
    2. food quality 29% (10 van 34)
    3. Food Technology 23% (40 van 172).