The BBC reports that the Australian government has moved to set guidelines for universities in an attempt to halt ‘unprecedented levels of foreign interference.’ Under new rules, universities will be expected to name their research partners and financial donors. They will also be encouraged to strengthen campus cyber-security systems and boost protection for sensitive research data, following a spate of university computer hacks and controversial donations linked to Beijing.
Education Minister, Dan Tehan, told reporters, “The foreign interference threat is at unprecedented levels. It will evolve, so we’ve got to make sure our approach evolves with it.” The new code of conduct will require Australian educational institutions to share cyber-intelligence with national security agencies.
Universities will also be obliged to identify foreign research partners, as well as report financial dealings with other countries.
Students Rally Against Beijing’s Influence on Australian Campuses
Back in August, the Australian government announced it had created a task force to investigate foreign interference in its universities. The move came as fears about Chinese influence in Australia’s educational institutions grew and students and staff in several universities reported “self-censoring” on sensitive political issues, such as the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Tensions between pro-democracy and Chinese mainland-loyal students erupted into violent clashes at the University of Queensland earlier this year, with at least one student claiming their family back home in China had been visited by a representative of the Chinese government.
Students at the University of Queensland have also protested against the institution’s links to the Chinese Communist Party, staging a sit-in at the Confucius Institute on campus, which is Beijing-funded. It has been reported that Australian universities hosting Confucius Institutes – which are Chinese-run bodies, offering language and cultural programmes overseas – signed agreements with China, granting the country decision-making authority over teaching within the facilities. Faced with accusations from the Australian government of meddling in its educational establishments, Beijing has insisted it makes no effort to exert influence on campuses.