Knowledge security

House of Representatives does not want any PhD candidates on Chinese scholarships in sensitive fields

The large majority of the House of Representatives does not want Chinese PhD candidates on scholarships from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) to have access to sensitive fields of research any longer. This was voted on on Tuesday.

(Photo: Jakub Zerdzicki/Unsplash)

The motion (in Dutch) was tabled by the VVD and NSC political parties. The Minister of Education needs to talk with knowledge institutions about preventing Chinese PhD candidates on CSC scholarships having access to sensitive areas of research. Almost all the parties were in agreement, although the motion does not state what areas of research it means.

CSC scholarships allow Chinese PhD candidates to work all over the world. In 2022, the Netherlands had almost 2,000 (in Dutch) PhD candidates on CSC scholarships. But universities are (in Dutch) ever more cautious about admitting these PhD candidates.

Pledge of allegiance

Many believe that the Chinese Government can force its subjects to share knowledge, for example by exerting pressure on their family members at home. The extent to which this is done in practice has not been thoroughly assessed. That said, Delta did find out that CSC PhD candidates are required to report on the progress they make in their research. They have to fill in a form every semester and send it to the Chinese Embassy in the Netherlands.

Research by the Clingendael Institute and the China Knowledge Network shows that in the contract that they sign with the CSC, PhD candidates also pledge allegiance to the Communist Party.

The motion Martens-America et al. to consult with knowledge institutions so that no new Phd students on CSC grants are admitted to sensitive research areas.


The only parties to vote against the motion were Volt and GroenLinks-PvdA. Presumably they think that the motion is getting ahead of itself. Outgoing Minister of Education Robbert Dijkgraaf is working on a proposed bill for the screening of international researchers. They will then not automatically have access to sensitive subject areas. The main question now is what subject areas these are. The bill is experiencing delays at the moment.

Previous research by Delta showed that Chinese military personnel came to TU Delft as doctoral candidates to carry out research in militarily sensitive areas such as radar technology and unmanned aircraft, but only a small number of them were doing so with a CSC grant.

A sledgehammer on a nut

Much needs to be done in terms of screening. The KNAW, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, is concerned that the Cabinet is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and that it will lead to a lot of unnecessary bureaucratic hassles. It argues for leaving this to academia. Universities too warn that the door should not be closed just like that. They believe that the Netherlands should continue to attract good international researchers.

GroenLinks-PvdA had tabled a motion (in Dutch) to this effect. It stated that in working out the proposed bill, the issues surrounding the screening should be taken into account. This motion too received a majority vote. Only PVV, FvD and JA21 voted against it.

Stultiens’ motion on including the concerns of universities and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) in developing the Knowledge Security Act.


In recent time international partnerships have demanded much attention, especially in regard to protests against ties of universities with Israeli institutions. But other international partnerships too are sometimes viewed with suspicion.

The MIVD (Military Intelligence and Security Service) and the AIVD (General Intelligence and Security Service) services warn against knowledge and technology theft by other countries, including China. The majority of the House of Representatives thus believes that universities should compile a detailed list of their international partnerships. D66 had tabled a motion (in Dutch) to this effect. Here too the populist right leaning parties voted against this.

The Rooderkerk/Paternotte motion on instructing universities to achieve a central and up-to-date overview of their international collaborations no later than this year.


HOP, Bas Belleman/ Delta, Annebelle de Bruijn

HOP Hoger Onderwijs Persbureau

Do you have a question or comment about this article?

Comments are closed.