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Dutch government to screen foreign PhD tech students, denies targeting China

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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Netherlands is considering legislation to screen foreign students who plan to study in technical fields for possible security risks, a spokesperson for the Education Ministry said on Monday.

Such a screen would be the latest in a string of moves taken by universities and government to restrict access to Dutch technology for Chinese students and companies.

But the ministry said the new rules would govern all students arriving from outside the European Union, not just Chinese.

The Dutch intelligence agency AIVD in April warned that Dutch universities are an “attractive target” for spying and that China is the largest threat.

Dutch universities have already begun rejecting Chinese students that receive a scholarship from the China Scholarship Council.

Education Minister Robbert Dijkgraaf, a former director of Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Studies, in April told parliament he was undertaking a review of which university programs have received foreign funding.

In 2022, he set up an “information centre” for universities to help vet foreign academic partnerships.

Last week the Dutch government introduced a security review for would-be foreign investors in the country that might pose a threat to national security interests.

The Dutch government in March said it would adopt stricter export rules for semiconductor technology, leading ASML Holding NV to say it will likely soon need a licence in order to export its second-most-advanced tools to China. Its most advanced tools are already barred.

The number of foreign students in the Netherlands has been growing in recent years, sparking disagreement over whether the Dutch language should be mandatory in classes.

But proportionately fewer Chinese students have come since 2012 and China has fallen from second to fifth on the list of most common foreign country of origin, according to nonprofit Nuffic, which promotes international educational cooperation at Dutch universities.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling, editing by Ed Osmond)

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