In a significant development, the Netherlands is now actively considering the implementation of legislation aimed at screening foreign students seeking to pursue studies in technical fields. This move reflects a broader trend in which universities and the government have taken steps to restrict access to Dutch technology for Chinese students and companies.
Dutch efforts to safeguard tech and academic partnerships
According to a spokesperson from the Education Ministry, the proposed measures are specifically designed to identify potential security risks associated with these students. This initiative reflects the government’s commitment to safeguarding national security interests and ensuring the integrity of the educational system.
Emphasising that the proposed regulations would apply to all students from outside the European Union, the ministry clarified that the focus is not solely on Chinese students. The Dutch intelligence agency AIVD had previously cautioned that Dutch universities are an attractive target for espionage, citing China as the primary threat.
To address these concerns, Dutch universities have already begun rejecting Chinese students who receive scholarships from the China Scholarship Council. Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf, a former director at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Studies, informed parliament in April about his ongoing review of university programs that have received foreign funding.
As part of these efforts, an information centre was established in 2022 to assist universities in evaluating foreign academic partnerships.
In addition, the Dutch government recently introduced a security review for potential foreign investors in the country, aiming to safeguard national security interests. In March, the government also announced stricter export rules for semiconductor technology, resulting in ASML Holding NV (ASML.AS) expressing the likelihood of needing an export licence to ship its second-most-advanced tools to China, as the export of its most advanced tools is already prohibited.
Although the number of foreign students in the Netherlands has been increasing in recent years, there has been a decrease in the proportion of Chinese students since 2012.
According to Nuffic, a non-profit organisation promoting international educational cooperation at Dutch universities, China has dropped from the second most common foreign country of origin to the fifth. This growth has sparked debates regarding the mandatory use of the Dutch language in classrooms.
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