Dutch universities more reluctant to accept Chinese scholarship PhD students

Dutch universities are increasingly reluctant to admit Ph.D. students with a Chinese scholarship, Trouw reports after speaking to twelve universities. The Ministry of Education is investigating the risks of the scholarship financed by the Chinese government.

It involves the China Scholarship Council (CSC) grant, financed by the Chinese Ministry of Education. It is a full-ride – Dutch universities have to contribute nothing. There are about 2,000 CSC holders in the Netherlands, spread across all universities.

TU Delft, with 242 scholarship holders, told Trouw it is “increasingly reluctant” to admit Ph.D. students with a CSC scholarship. The university does not accept CSC Ph.D. candidates in sensitive research areas, such as “dual use” technologies with both civil and military applications. The university also no longer admits students with ties to the “Seven Sons” – seven universities with close ties to the Chinese military. Researchers from the National University of Defense Technology (NUDT) are also unwelcome.

Maastricht University, 182 CSC holders, is also against the Seven Sons and even withdrew three Ph.D. projects because of the candidate’s ties to an affiliated university. Wageningen University has become more reserved with CSC candidates, the rector told the newspaper. Utrecht University has chosen to refrain from entering into any new discussions with Ph.D. students with CSC grants. “This is also due to the low salaries that Ph.D. students receive: 1,350 euros per month, over 400 euros per month below the Dutch minimum wage.”

The scholarship is under a magnifying glass due to the Chinese subsidy. Recipients have to sign a form promising to visit the Chinese embassy in the country they study in, promising to return to China for at least two years after receiving their Ph.D., and swearing allegiance to the Communist Party, according to Trouw.

After parliamentary questions, Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf said last month that he would investigate the risk of the grant for knowledge security.

“We would like to receive more guidelines from the government,” said Han van Krieken, rector of Radboud University and chairman of the European working group at the Association of Universities. Most universities don’t want to ban Chinese researchers altogether, he told Trouw. “If we want to continue to participate at the top of science, we cannot say that we do not want their knowledge.”

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