Why Lijst Calimero will vote against Yantai

by | Jan 29, 2018 | News | 0 comments

The word is out: Lijst Calimero will be voting against Yantai. For us, it is clear that a vote against the campus in China is for the best for our university. In this article, we will explain to you why.

Ever since the first day of our year as a faction, we have been closely involved with the plans for the campus in Yantai. After the critical stance of our previous faction, it was our mission to make sure that this plan would contribute to the quality of education in Groningen. We therefore became part of the committee that was called into life to work on the renewed request.

We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the plans for University of Groningen Yantai (UGY). We are well aware that this project has cost a lot of time, money and energy. Thanks to the efforts of many staff members, we are be able to give our judgement on an elaborate plan.

We have spoken to many different people about the plan: civil servants, students, teachers, and researchers. These people were representatives of the whole university, but in particular of the two faculties who were supposed to be offering programmes in Yantai. Over the past five months, we have done our best to come to a judgment in the best way possible. A judgment for the best of the whole university.

We have deliberately spent so much time en effort into this, because we know that this is one of the biggest decisions that a university council has made in the recent history. A decision like that shouldn’t be made based on gut feelings or non-academic arguments like “just do it.”. Such a YOLO-mentality doesn’t belong in the university, nor in the university council. We have made a decision based on the content of the plan. That content tells us that the plans for UGY are no good for the UG.

Quality of education

For Lijst Calimero, the quality of education always has the highest priority. The students who will follow a programme at UGY, receive the same diploma as students who follow that programme in Groningen. As a result, the value of one of both diplomas relies on the quality of education in both Groningen and China.

That is why it is of fundamental importance that we have faith in the possibility to get the education in China to the same level as here. Meanwhile, we shouldn’t ask too much from the teachers in Groningen. If they put too much time into the Chinese programmes, they won’t be able to provide the good quality of education in Groningen anymore. That results in a decrease of the quality of the programmes here. If that happens, the students in Groningen will be affected, because the bad execution of education in China will devalue their diploma. All of this without these student of Groningen ever setting foot in China.

That means that there is a need to hire new, good teachers. We don’t believe that we can employ enough good teachers in time, who can provide the same education as we have here. Momentarily, there is a very competitive market when it comes to hiring good teachers, and it hasn’t been shown to us how UGY will be able to hire good teachers on a short term. We also question the willingness of teachers from Groningen to start teaching in Yantai. Especially with the programmes Chemistry and Life Science & Technology, it appeared in the conversations we had that the expected load is severely underestimated, while the willingness of the staff is severely overestimated. Shortly: not enough good teachers will be ready in time to offer courses at UGY at the proper level.

Another concern is that there isn’t a moment of outflow for the Chinese students. We know this matter in the Netherlands in terms of the negative BSA. Also, the fact that two Boards of Examiners supervise one programme increases the risk that quality standards will develop to vary greatly. That gives us no faith in the quality of education maintaining the same level. This will influence the value of the UG diplomas of the programmes that will go to China.

Finances

In addition, it is crucial that UGY stays financially stable. Despite that there will be a financial firewall between UG and UGY, a financial failing of UGY will undoubtedly cause not only a financial disappointment for the UG, but also harm to its reputation. This will have consequences for the value of the diplomas in the Netherlands.

The incomes at UGY will rely completely on tuition fees from students there. But it is uncertain if these students will actually go there, especially when looking at the limited amount of programmes. Dutch students will follow their education in Yantai, but will only pay tuition to the UG. This money won’t flow to UGY, which brings an extra financial burden. Besides, we are hearing more and more sounds from within the Faculty of Science and Engineering that the calculations that have been made concerning the teachings staff aren’t correct. Because of this, there will probably be a large financial deficit in the budget.

Academic freedom

Apart from the worries mentioned above, the academic freedom remains a big issue for us. The arrangements with China about this matter have a limited value. The appointment of a party secretary has made it clear to us that we are doing business with the most powerful communist state that this world has ever seen, and that they lay out the rules in their country.

This can also be seen in the interview in the Volkskrant in which the future Chinese president of UGY displays little respect for the state of affairs here in the Netherlands. He states that educational sovereignty is just as important in China as is academic freedom for Dutch students. Educational sovereignty means not being allowed to speak out on certain topics, like the murdered students on Tiananmen Square. This is in complete violation with our Dutch academic norms and values.

In our view, it is exemplary for the relation that we take on ourselves with China: China pays, so China decides. We can’t expect that our thoughts about freedom and a free academic atmosphere will be respected. This isn’t being met now and won’t be met later on.

Therefore, we cannot stand behind the plan to offer Dutch programmes at a university that is governed by a party secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.

Mentioned advantages

At last, the advantages for education as mentioned in this plan are insufficient and  not based on proven facts. The effect that an international joint university will have on international rankings is controversial and can’t be verified. On top of this, we believe that the campus should be a place that all students from Groningen should benefit from. However, Dutch students going to Yantai wouldn’t be paying tuition to UGY and are therefore not included in the budget. This leads to less budget, and directly results in a lack of enough staff to teach the students from Groningen. Eventually, this means few possibilities for exchanges.

For proponents, the collaboration with China feels like a positive one. And we surely see advantages in international collaborations. Science is international and a good university is an international one. Dutch students can learn a lot from international classmates and teachers. We support collaboration between academics from different countries and different cultures, as we believe that this contributes to a better world. But that should all happen in a correct way. A way that doesn’t harm our university. That doesn’t endangers our education. With an equal partner.

Conclusion

We hoped to see a good plan that would have a clear and positive effect on the quality of education in Groningen. That this isn’t the case, is definitely due to the principles in the plan and surely not due to the efforts of the staff of the UG. Despite that, and with dissatisfaction of our own, we came to the conclusion that the plan that is on the table isn’t a good one with clear advantages and clarifying risks.

Once again, we would like to thank all those involved: the staff, the students; both proponents and opponents. They have strengthened us in our decision.

For us, this hasn’t been an easy decision. We are well aware that we will disappoint some people with this decision. However, we can’t vote in favor of this plan with good conscience. We take our responsibility as a party in the university council seriously which is why we made this decision. Not for ourselves, but for the university as a whole and for all students who will study at the UG in the future.

The next step is to phase-out this project in a good way, with as little damage as possible for the university. The university has to refocus on her main tasks of education and research, after this year-long process.