Reports and papers

Dutch collaboration with PhD students sponsored by the China Scholarship Council

11 Mar 2024 - 17:00
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This report analyses the scope and nature of Dutch collaboration with the China Scholarship Council (CSC), a non-profit organisation affiliated with the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. This collaboration has come under scrutiny in the Netherlands and beyond due to various knowledge security concerns: concerns that CSC PhD students may facilitate undesirable knowledge transfer or other forms of foreign interference activities, and concerns about possible dependencies of Dutch knowledge institutes on CSC PhD students, which may make them vulnerable to Chinese political pressure and to geopolitical developments involving China. In addition, media reports about CSC students having to sign ‘loyalty pledges’ to the Chinese Communist Party and its policies have caused concern about Chinese infringements on academic freedom.

This report finds that there were approximately 2,197 CSC PhD students in the Netherlands in 2023. Close to half of this number performs research in fields that are of strategic importance to both China and the Netherlands. Despite these numbers, dependencies of Dutch knowledge institutions on CSC PhD students in strategic areas of research are limited. This report also discusses the potential challenges, risks, and benefits in collaborating with CSC, as well as scenarios for future developments, and collaboration with CSC in other European countries.

The report offers several recommendations regarding collaboration with CSC to the Dutch government. These include providing guidance to knowledge institutions, coordinating national level discussions with CSC, and encouraging Dutch knowledge institutions to diversify sources of PhD scholarship funding and formulate contingency plans.

The research was commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and was carried out within the framework agreement of the Dutch China Knowledge Network.

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