15 November 2023 – Yesterday, a new report on Chinese investment in British universities was launched in the British Parliament. The report exposes that up to a third of Chinese funding in U.K. universities comes from sources linked to the Chinese military or banned by the United States.
After submitting 88 Freedom of Information (FoI) requests to U.K. universities over the course of six months, Robert Clark, Director of the Defence and Security Unit at Civitas and a research team discovered that between 2017 and 2022/23, British universities received between £122,355,749 and £156,019,834 from Chinese sources. These figures include between £19,917,836 and £30,504,836 worth of funds that were subject to U.S. government sanctions at the time of funding.
In covering this report, The Telegraph focused on the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, King’s College London and Imperial College London for participating in a scholarship programme with the China Scholarship Council which hosts nearly 650 Chinese nationals in British universities and requires Chinese officials to “review the applicant’s political ideology” and provide “pre-departure education” prior to arriving in Britain.
The report reveals that the largest since source of Chinese investment in British universities comes from Huawei Technologies and its subsidiaries, providing between £27 million to £37 million in funds since 2017. The Times said, “Civitas found Huawei companies had formed the single largest source of funding since 2017, putting in between £27 million and £37 million — making up between 22 and 24 per cent of the total funding from Chinese sources.” The Scotsman reported that The University of Edinburgh took £12 million in funds from Chinese companies with military links, including Huawei which has been banned by the British government.
The report recommends that the British government should ban all university funding, research collaborations and donations which are associated with Chinese companies, particularly those which are on the U.S. sanctions list and pose a threat to British national security. The report also advises the U.K. government to close Confucius Institutes and end partnerships with the China Scholarship Council in British universities.
“This yet again shows that we need to urgently reassess our relationship with China. It raises so many ethical and security questions that a potentially adversarial state is using UK universities as its brain bank.”
Robert Clark, Director of the Defence and Security Unit at Civitas and author of the report, said:
“In this latest Civitas study examining Chinese influence in UK universities, we uncover a financial reliance on Chinese institutions, posing grave concerns for both national security and to the financial sustainability for UK higher education providers. The British government must now urgently address these threats posed by this overreliance on Chinese funding into our universities. A good place to start would be to better align the UK’s sanctions regimes with those of the US’, which prohibit investment from many of these dangerous Chinese defence conglomerates.”
Mark Sabah, UK and EU Director of the Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation, said:
“This report exposes shockingly high levels of Chinese investment into the British university system, putting our education institutions and national security at risk. The British government must immediately launch an inquiry into foreign funding within the British university system, especially where there might be national security concerns.”