Science - December 4, 2008


A Wageningen delegation visited Nanjing Agricultural University (NAU) last week to discuss possibilities for extensive collaboration, mainly in the form of attracting Chinese PhD students and doing research in China. Van Hall Larenstein was represented too, with a view to student recruitment.

‘We looked at the fields in which there is potential for collaboration. There is a lot of interest in talent-spotting and getting PhD students to Wageningen. This is of interest because China has a grants systems that covers travel and accommodation costs’, explains rector Martin Kropff. The next step may be to develop a joint research programme in China around such themes as sustainable resource management, land use, and chain development. Eight projects are already under way at the Chinese Agricultural University, and there are strong existing links with the NAU. These include a special programme with three PhD students from the NAU, in collaboration with KNAW and the Chinese ministry of science and technology. The NAU will reciprocate Wageningen’s visit next year.
The number of Chinese students at Wageningen University is going down a bit, however. At the moment there are 186 in total, 149 Master’s students and 37 Bachelor’s students. The number of new first year students from China has been as high as 60 in recent years, but this year there are only 28. ‘China has increased its educational capacity in recent years, and the range of possibilities is increasing. Countries such as India, Malaysia and Thailand import more and more students from other Asian countries too’, explains Kropff.

Representing Van Hall Larenstein on the delegation to Nanjing was Jos Leeters, who coordinates the successful 2+2 programme, in which Chinese students follow courses at the Universities of Beijing and Kunming for two years, and are prepared for two years at VHL to complete their Bachelor’s degree course. More than two hundred Chinese students have graduated from this programme, and 48 students from Beijing and Kunming are at VHL now for their third year. ‘That is about one third more than last year, but next year there will be fewer students’, says Leeters. ‘It fluctuates, but overall it’s going very well.’

The 2+2 programme was set up for the courses in International Horticulture and Marketing, International Agri-business and Trade, and Land and Water Management. Leeters: ‘We’re looking into whether we can apply the same approach in other places in China, or in other majors. Nanjing has a broad agricultural university too, so we could collaborate with their faculty of Animal Science and technology, for example’. Compared to Velp or Wageningen, VHL Leeuwarden is attracting fewer and fewer students. Whereas it used to receive about 30 students a year from the Environmental Management College of China (EMCC), this year there are only three Chinese students on the Water Management course. To reverse this trend, VHL Leeuwarden wants to develop a joint two-year programme with Wageningen University, where students in the past have often gone on to do the Master’s in Land and Water Technology. In future, students should be able to do their Master’s in China.