It is known that Chinese doctoral students who come to the Netherlands on scholarships from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) must toe the communist party line. Following an investigation, international broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that this has consequences in Germany.


PhD candidates are obliged to regularly document their academic progress and provide reports to their embassy or consulate. They may also be asked to provide information on professors and other academic staff at the university where they are studying for their PhD.

Two family members in China must be named in advance as personal guarantors for every CSC scholar for the duration of their doctorate programme. They are forbidden to leave China for more than three months and are liable for the costs if the scholar terminates the programme prematurely or their academic performance is inadequate. The combined penalty fees and funding amount can be as high as 75 thousand euros.

Reports already emerged in Sweden of family members being obliged to act as guarantors, but the German article reveals just how common it is as well as the amounts that are potentially involved. PhD candidates at Erasmus University Rotterdam previously said that the scholarship conditions were ‘merely symbolic’ and had no practical implications.


The Swedish article had already prompted MP Hatte van der Woude (VVD) to submit parliamentary questions to education minister Robbert Dijkgraaf, and the new German article raises additional concerns for her. “The obligation to report to embassies and the requirement on family members to act as guarantors put severe pressure on PhD students. That has implications for academic freedom and our knowledge security.”

She therefore plans to ask Dijkgraaf whether CSC scholars in the Netherlands are also required to report to their embassy or consulate. “If such conditions are being imposed on doctoral students from China, then we as the Dutch government need to consider whether these are compatible with our laws and values. And you shouldn’t condone family members being ‘held hostage’ by simply saying that China has a different culture.”

Yayi Zhang en Pengfei Li 2022 – Levien Willemse

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