Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences worried about the erosion of academic freedom would do well to end their association with China’s Confucius Institutes.
Last year, the Clingendael Institute of International Relations published a critical report about China’s influence on higher education. (Photo: Rob Webb via Flickr)

Dutch universities and universities of applied sciences worried about the erosion of academic freedom would do well to end their association with China’s Confucius Institutes.

Lees in het Nederlands

That is the advice given by Education Minister Ingrid van Engelshoven in a written response to parliamentary questions from the Christian Democrats (CDA). This position goes a little further than statements made in her previous letters on this issue.

The CDA asked the questions after investigative journalism platform Follow the Money reported on the financial interests and restrictions on academic freedom that accompany cooperation with China.

Critical report
The aim of the Confucius Institutes is to promote education in Chinese language and culture. There are currently two institutes in the Netherlands, one affiliated with the University of Groningen and the other with Zuyd University of Applied Sciences in Maastricht. Leiden University ended its collaboration with the organisation in 2019. Last year, the Clingendael Institute of International Relations published a critical report about China’s influence on higher education.

In Groningen, a petition against the Confucius Institute is circulating

Concerns are especially strong among students from Hong Kong, where China continues to step up its efforts to restrict freedom and democracy, and to imprison its political opponents. In Groningen, they have launched a petition against the Confucius Institute. This year, the contract of a Professor of Chinese Language and Culture at the University of Groningen made the news for obliging the professor not to say or do anything that might damage China’s image.

Armed forces
But other forms of academic collaboration can also pose problems. Dutch politicians were shocked by Delta’s report that TU Delft’s links with Chinese universities are working to the advantage of China’s armed forces.

HOP, Bas Belleman
Translation: Taalcentrum-VU

Photo: Rob Webb via Flickr