Around the world, especially in rapidly developing countries, many higher education institutions of various forms are being established. In China, many new universities have been created, including by upgrading existing tertiary education institutions. This process creates economic displacement, with livelihood consequences and social impacts on existing employees and local communities. Using the proposed (but now cancelled) University of Groningen campus in Yantai, China, as a case study, we consider the social impacts that were experienced, or were likely to be experienced, by the employees of the pre-existing institution. Existing employees experienced many negative impacts from economic displacement. They were not satisfied with the compensation offered, their views and interests were not adequately considered, and many were afraid to express their concerns. The institutions involved in the project failed to fulfil their corporate social responsibility (CSR) and environmental, social and governance (ESG) obligations to ensure no harm.