The University of Groningen has had a Dutch Studies Centre at Fudan University in Shanghai since 2005. Both universities, Tsinghua and Fudan, are among the absolute top of academic education institutes in China. ‘I am delighted that we have been able to establish such in-depth cooperation with these two universities in particular’, says Groningen professor of History and Theory of European Integration Jan van der Harst. In addition to his position in Groningen, Prof. van der Harst is academic director of the centres in China.
The two institutes will offer intensive courses. ‘However, just as at Fudan University, we are going to use the new centre in Beijing to set up PhD projects and organize conferences’, says Van der Harst, outlining the future prospects. ‘Many universities across the world have memoranda of understanding with these two universities. However, only genuine cooperation strengthens the link and results in development. This is what this kind of centre is designed to do.’
The China-Netherlands relationship is central to the study centre in Shanghai. ‘That suits that city’, thinks Van der Harst. ‘The Dutch presence is significant there, and Dutch business is well represented.’ The lectures for students of economics and law that he gives with Groningen colleagues are fully booked every year.
He expects the same level of interest at the new centre at Tsinghua University. With the topics of Europe and China-EU relations, that institute will have a wider focus. Van der Harst will teach courses to students who are following a degree in International Relations. ‘There is a lot of interest in China in European unification, and in the problems we are currently experiencing. In the past they have had a lot of experience and many contacts with the USA. Europe is relatively new for them and they are naturally used to looking at these types of issues in a completely different way. You notice that they are following the developments here with great interest.’
Attending the opening with Van der Harst on 1 September from Groningen will be Prof. Sibrand Poppema, President of the Board of the University of Groningen, Prof. Douwe Draaisma, professor of the History of Psychology, and the Director of the Groningen Confucius Institute, Ms Xuefei Knoester-Cao. Secretary of State Halbe Zijlstra of OCW will officially open the centre.Zijlstra: ‘This cooperation is a prime example of the warm links between researchers and students that have existed for over thirty years between China and the Netherlands. More specifically, the initiative taken by these two universities will have the extraordinary side effect that it will generate what it studies – international relations. Students and researchers from both countries will keep in contact with each other, regularly meet each other, and stimulate ideas in each other. During the process they will foster mutual understanding, which in turn will strengthen the relationship between our countries.’
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