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Academic warns universities ‘should be pretty careful’ about accepting Chinese funding

Several Australian universities which host Chinese government-funded education departments have signed agreements ceding decision-making authority to Beijing, according to The Age.

Thirteen Australian universities host Beijing-funded Confucius Institutes. Agreements signed by four of those universities, University of Queensland, Griffith University, La Trobe University and Charles Darwin University, have been found to contain clauses which state that the “must accept the assessment of the (Chinese) Headquarters on the teaching quality”.

Professor John Fitzgerald, China specialist at Swinburne University of Technology, said most, but not all, Confucius Institutes don’t offer subjects which are eligible for university credit.

“Most of them are really just engaged in community outreach activities offering cultural immersion or cooking classes, or a bit of tai chi, and don’t actually offer courses on campus,” he told 3AW’s Tom Elliott.

“But at the University of Queensland, and a few others, they actually offer subjects … going towards a university degree.”

Mr Fitzgerald said universities should be cautious about accepting funding from parties with vested interests.

“Universities need to remember that they enjoy enormous freedom and autonomy,” he said.

“They should be pretty careful about how the manage that autonomy, and who it is they take money from.

Academics generally oppose the establishment of Confucius Institutes, according to Mr Fitzgerald.

“Confucius Institutes generally aren’t put up following consultation with academic faculties,” he said.

“They’re usually imposed by an administration that does a deal with China.

“On the whole, academics oppose them and always have done so at just about every university.”

Education Minister Dan Tehan has issued a warning to universities regarding academic autonomy in the wake of the contract revelations, and a federal government investigation is underway at universities with Confucius Institutes.

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