Dutch Lions and Chinese Dragons

Dutch Lions and Chinese Dragons

Published by Melchior van Benthem op Thursday 15 November
© 2019

NHL University of applied sciences runs a project with a partner university in Guangzhou, China.

Every year in October about 50 students and 4 lecturers travel to Guangzhou in China to join an intensive program and work together in teams with Chinese students and staff for two weeks.
In May up to 50 Chinese students yearly come to Leeuwarden in The Netherlands for a return visit of two weeks and work together in small groups with Dutch students on assignments.
In the evenings students socialize while participating in cultural and leisure activities. During the weekend students and staff enjoy homestay at local families.

There are several goals with this program:
- Offer students an intensive intercultural experience
- Prepare students to be professional in a Globalized world
- Introduce students to an upcoming country, one of the BRIC countries
- Introduce fresh students to Internationalisation and promote the opportunity for mobility to them
- Offer an alternative for students who are not able to have semester (exchange) mobility for any reason
- Create Internationalisation at home (over 100 local students involved, in China even more)
- Improve the relation with Partner University

-This program started in October 2011. In total each time about 100 students from both sides are involved. Until November 2012 about 300 students benefited from the project.


Together with colleagues and management of Guangzhou College (part of South China University of Technology, SCUT) NHL University designed this intensive project.

The idea is to put students from different cultural background together and make them work very hard together for two weeks on a challenging assignment with a relevant subject, preferably a real assignment with an external client.

This intensive programme is run with a heterogeneous group participating students and is open for students from all different bachelor studies. The project aims at first and second year students, as they still have the option to choose for an exchange.

There is an open enrollment for this project, students from all disciplines are invited to participate. The purpose is to create a group of students with diverse background.

Practice shows that about half the group is from one of the departments in the Economic domain; others come from Communication, Teacher Training, Technology and Health Care.

Three criteria are used to select students:

  • Advice of study counselor (motivation, suitability, academic results)

  • Students' personal plan for assignment related to major study (with approval of Department)

  • Active participation in preparation meetings in September/October

The number of applicants from one department may never exceed 33 %, to guarantee the heterogeneous composition of the group.
Participating lecturers are recruited from the departments where students come from, to reflect the composition of the student group.

The program of the project contains three main activities.

  • Morning programme: all groups work on the same general assignment. The composite groups (different disciplines and different nationalities) form a team and compete with each other. Results are presented at final event at the end of the week. A jury will judge the results and reward the best team during an official closing ceremony.

  • Afternoon: Students work on a personal assignment related to their major. Before departure students formulate their own assignment to do a field research to compare differences in the professional world of their own field between The Netherlands and China. This assignment will be assessed by a lecturer in their home university. Local students will help and assist the visitors to guide, establish contact and translate. Participation is part of the study program of local students, so there is no permissiveness for them.

  • Evening: A social programme with leisure and sports activities. Dutch and Chinese students work, play and party together.

    It is possible to run such a dense and challenging programme because students live in the accommodation on campus for two weeks, so no logistic and time consuming problems occur.

Education, didactics and teaching methods in China and The Netherlands differ a lot. It proves to be a challenge for teachers and staff from both countries to cooperate as a team in this project. Teachers discuss the program daily. Evaluating and discussing the program is part of the process of preparing, executing and evaluating this project. Dutch staff learns from Chines and the other way round. Based on this experience and other comparable projects NHL University developed a concept for the set-up of those kind of projects..

Outline for International projects

Intensive projects are limited in time and the intercultural element makes productivity even harder. Therefore explicit attention should be paid to get the teams working. Apart from work the social element is important. As a third element students will work on an assignment that is important for their own study program. Therefore the whole project consists of three different activities: a general assignment where students work in international teams, a study program assignment and social activities. See figure below.

General assignment Teambuilding

Creativity / Innovation

Project specific activities
Study program assignment Individual activity
Social activities Group activity

The general assignment consists of three types of activities:

  1. Teambuilding: students will work in teams of mixed nationalities and teambuilding activities aim at forming the team so it can become productive as quick as possible.
  2. Creativity / innovation is an important element since this competence will be important to help organizations survive
  3. Social activities to learn about the country, the people, the culture, the language and of course to enjoy.

The schedule shows three types of lecturers:

  • content experts related to the subject of the project

  • facilitators for innovation and creativity

  • teambuilders

Overall a project leader watches over the project and takes care of the tuning with the Chinese staff.

Favourable and demonstrable effect on the quality of education

- Participating students gain intercultural competences
- Participating staff gets involved with colleagues at partner university
- Internationalization at home is strengthened
- More students consider exchange abroad

Results are measured by interviewing all involved staff and a number of students and by surveying all students.

Teachers develop to be more all-round and culturally sensitive, students develop to be more demanding participants in education. Positive feedback from students and staff about their international experience makes others curious and eager to follow.

Constraints or limitations and unique features

This project offers students the unique opportunity to have a first international experience in a safe embedded environment in China. This introduction to Internationalization opens up students with a relatively narrow and regional orientation to consider an international experience in a later stage of their study. This way they can take a step in between.

Another unique feature is the fact students can explore the subject of their major in a comparison between The Netherlands and China. They will do site visits in China assisted and guided by local Chinese students.

A limitation is the fact students have to pay all costs themselves. Some interested students will not be able to participate by a lack of financial possibilities.

Exchange characteristics & opportunities

- Easy accessible project for first and second year students
- Improves relation with partner university
- Lecturers from two cultures forced to cooperate, negociate and discuss the essence of teaching
- Project raises participation in exchange program
15 NOV


Level: Bachelor
Orientation: Academic

Standard: Teaching and Learning
Assessment Result:

Type: The programme was NOT assessed against the NVAO framework "BKInt"

Contact information

Contact: Melchior van Benthem
Contact e-mail: benthem(plaats the 'at' sign hier)nhl.nl
Institution: NHL University of applied sciences
Website: http://www.nhl.nl
Country: The Netherlands


Ton de Winter (dewinter(plaats the 'at' sign hier)nhl.nl)


The total annual budget on the Dutch side of this project is € 132.800,-. Participating students pay € 1250,- for the trip, accommodation and nourishment. Departments pay for the expenses of lecturers from their Internationalization budget and NHL University pays the costs of coordination and organization.
There is no additional external source for funding of this project.