Following the release of an Inspectorate of Education report which concluded that the University of Groningen had wrongly attributed 381,925 euros to its plans in the Chinese city of Yantai, the RUG has officially announced that it is bringing the project plans to a close.
Translation by Hans de Preter and Traci White
The findings, which were released on 8 July, came on top of previous compensation from the RUG for hours worked on the project to the tune of 669,000 euros. The July findings indicated that the university wrongly attributed 381,925 euros to “private funds”, 110,000 euros of which was due to “double counting” and 271,925 euros which “should be seen as public funds”.
The investigations followed revelations last summer that the university appeared to have gotten creative with its book keeping in how it paid for the preparations for the Yantai project. Despite consistent public statements by then-education minister Jet Bussemaker that no public funding could be allocated to the campus, two separate inspections have now resulted in the university having to account for more than one million euros involved in the Yantai branch campus project between 2015 and 2018.
The university has deducted the money from their 2018 financial statements, according to a RUG press release. University of Groningen president Jouke de Vries, who succeeded Sibrand Poppema last fall, says, “When I took office, I indicated that we would accelerate the phasing-out of the Yantai project and review our China policy. Now that the Inspectorate’s report has been published, we can close this chapter.” De Vries went on to say, “It turns out that we made a mistake and we accept that.”
The press release from the university states that the release of the inspectorate report marks the official end of the project. “Discussions were held with China Agricultural University, the city of Yantai and the Province of Shandong. In addition, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science has sent a letter to the Chinese Ministry of Education explaining that the project cannot be continued because it lacks a statutory basis.”
The Yantai project began in 2015 when then-president Poppema travelled to the northeastern Chinese province of Shandong to visit a massive, largely empty, campus. China Agricultural University was seeking a foreign university partner to take it over. Some staff expressed concerns that they were being steamrolled as Poppema insisted that the branch campus, which would eventually offer bachelor and master-level education and PhD research, was a golden opportunity for a more secure future for the RUG.
After three years of fraught internal negotiations, the board withdrew their proposal when it became clear that the university council would not support it in January of 2018.
Photo source: Cruisemapper