Chinese influence stifles university free speech

Only 9 of 42 universities have signed up for a new free speech code of conduct:

Only nine of the nation’s 42 universities have adopted policies that completely align with a government-backed model code on free speech, despite the sector committing to having policies in place by the year’s end…

The findings are contained in a report by former Deakin University vice-chancellor Sally Walker, who the Morrison government commissioned in August to review the university sector’s progress in adopting the French model code.

Professor Walker found that 33 universities had completed work to implement the model code, but only nine had policies that fully aligned with the French proposal…

“The French model code ensures freedom of speech and academic freedom are paramount values of Australian universities,” Mr Tehan said.

“Universities have until the end of the year to honour their commitment to align their policies with the French Model Code and I strongly urge those universities that have not already done so to take action.”

This follows last month’s report prepared for the Business Council and Asia Society, which warned that the excessive concentration of Chinese students at Australia’s universities is stifling free speech and debate, compromising academic integrity. The report also called for entry standards to be tightened:

The paper, authored by the University of Sydney Business School’s international academic director John Shields, calls for higher entry standards for international students — including in the minimum level of English-language proficiency.

“Far from serving to diversity the student cohort, the dependence on Chinese students has ­instituted a form of classroom monoculturalism in which ­encouraging students to embrace the values of academic integrity and free debate, and facilitating the development of core capabilities in critical thinking, effective English communication and cross-cultural competence, have become increasingly difficult,” Professor Shields writes…

The report recommends that universities “tighten academic and English-language standards for Chinese students”, requiring higher scores in the Chinese end-of-school exam, the Gao Kao, and put more emphasis on the International Baccalaureate as an entry examination…

The ABC also reported in September that Australian universities have censored courses and compromised standards to appease Chinese students:

A Sydney university has recommended staff self-censor teaching material to keep students in China enrolled during the pandemic.

The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) conducted a working group in February to discuss how to keep Chinese international students enrolled by teaching them online.

An internal university memo obtained by the ABC highlighted concerns the Chinese Government may “turn off” all communication from the university over any teaching material that may be seen as politically sensitive.

The university’s working group recommended teaching material avoid any mention of topics which may be politically inaccurate, citing territories of China as one example.

This aligns with Clive Hamilton’s testimony in August:

…universities are vital to the [CCP] party’s campaign to change the global conversation about China and its role in the world. It has many tools at its disposal. Chinese diplomats do not hesitate to phone vice chancellors to express their displeasure and make veiled threats about the revenue they derive from Chinese students and joint programs with Chinese universities.

They pressure universities to “persuade” China scholars who criticise Beijing to pipe down and if that doesn’t work the scholars know their visas to do research in China might be denied.

Some Chinese students dob in their lecturers if they deviate from China’s position, such as where to draw boundaries in disputed regions, and even start social media campaigns denouncing the lecturer’s “anti-China” stance.

One of the biggest levers that Beijing can pull is the one provided by Confucius Institutes. It’s partly the money the Chinese Government provides to teach Chinese language and culture. But perhaps more important are the personal “friendships” that university bosses develop with their counterparts in China. They don’t want to upset their friends.

The institutes are ostensibly devoted to teaching Chinese language and promoting Chinese culture. In fact, they are a part of the CCP’s global program of “discourse management”.

Australia’s universities didn’t get the biggest concentration of Chinese students in the world without compromising their entry and teaching standards, freedom of speech, and principles:

The federal government must:

  • cap international student numbers, enforce freedom of speech protocols, and tighten entry standards; and
  • ban the 13 Confucius Institutes or kick them off campus at minimum. The US and Sweden are systematically shutting them already.

If universities do not comply, the federal government should threaten them with funding cuts.

Unconventional Economist
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Comments

  1. As Billy Bragg once said ‘virtue never tested is no virtue at all’. I can think of plenty of examples of testing the university VCs and them failing when it comes to a choice between principles and cash.

    • boomengineeringMEMBER

      Glanced at TV news last night and noted that some kid got carted off by the Feds for something he was active on the internet about. Thought I heard Neo Nazi mentioned. Looks like we have no freedom of speech either having the thought police monitoring or every thought. Remember some time ago an author got banned from entering Australia for views unacceptable to our gov’t.
      Glad to be corrected/ more informed about the News item.

      • NoodlesRomanovMEMBER

        I just read what amounts to the media regurgitating the police statements, but sounds like there were specific threats involved.

        Fine line between a young confused idiot talking tough in chat rooms, and the next notorious world headline outlining what he is going to do ahead of time.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      “If universities do not comply, the federal government should threaten them with funding cuts”

      They’ve already done that!
      That’s why University VCs bend over, cap in hand, for foreign student demands.

  2. Looks like there are 33 institutions that can be earmarked for closure, will be a blessing with the Federal budget under pressure. Identify anything taught at those institutions that is essential and transfer to the nine.
    Stuff funding cuts, remove their qualification as a University.

    • Without Chinese international students, they will have to close down anyway. Every local Australian student the University enrolled result in a loss, and international students is how they make up the shortfall.

        • Arthur Schopenhauer

          Agree with the pissing away money.

          Dollars per student has not risen. Much of the research funding of group of eight universities is paid by OS student fees.

        • that too but Unies should be for free for all Australian kids. 100% free. Only then talented kids from all background can achieve their full potential and which will be greatly contribute to our economy on long run.
          And for that Unies will need more funding.
          But agree on our Unies being wasteful and that better administrators can produce much better results with current funding.

        • The90kwbeastMEMBER

          Err, also there is substantial casualisation issues in the university sector also. You know that in any organisation cost cuts affect those at the bottom doing the actual work first, right?

          Be careful for what you wish for. Agreed however on VC salaries & overall senior remuneration of course however.

        • Amount per student went down as number of students become uncapped. The only fix is to cap the number of places for both domestic and international students.

  3. In positive news the FTA with China is not being expanded:
    https://amp.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3113146/china-australia-relations-review-trade-pact-canberra-unlikely

    But not without a Labor MP still selling out the country and its workers inspite of everything China has done to date:
    Australia’s shadow minister for trade, Madeleine King, a member of the opposition Australian Labor Party, was disappointed that the government was not planning on undertaking a review, given the importance of the free-trade agreement to both nations. “It is clear that the Morrison government has a set-and-forget attitude to free-trade agreements such as ChAfta,” she said. “These agreements need to be followed up with hard work, relationship building, and resources on the ground.”

    Deep exploration of the issue by the author Orange Wang (which also happens to be what Melania calls Trump)

  4. “If universities do not comply, the federal government should threaten them with funding cuts.”

    Lols. Funding cuts are what pushed universities into taking OS students in the first place.

    • The90kwbeastMEMBER

      That’s the first thing I thought too.

      Shouldn’t the government instead offer increased funding for those who sign on board, to fix the decade/s long issue of lack of govt. funding for our unis?

      • The90kwbeastMEMBER

        Leith, you need to look at per student funding across all universities not just the total figure.

        https://www.iru.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Average-funding-and-other-funding-facts.pdf

        As one other commentator has said, new universities have been created, smaller universities have grown their student cohort etc. Just looking at the total revenue and saying ‘well funding has gone up’ is irrelevant, it’s the per student funding that matters (much like you blokes constantly raising the flag about GDP/Capital instead of total GDP growth).

        In the link above, and I’m guilty of skimming it here, it suggests per student funding has increased marginally whilst costs per student are actually outrunning funding leading to a drop in overall quality… and probably pushing Uni’s to offset that with the rivers of gold foreign students provide.

        • while I agree with your point about funding per student- does the cost per student include bloated VC salaries and unneccessary vanity projects?

      • Can’t help but notice that all this funding detail is for the last decade at most. The defunding, privatisation and international student expansion was already happening in the 90’s when I went through Uni. By the 2010’s it was all but complete so your argument holds no water. What did funding look like from the 80’s through to now?

  5. An LNP education minister threatening Australian universities to protect free speech. Too funny.

  6. Speech is also being stifled in multi national corporations. Staff are being told not to rock the boat with China.

      • It’s all over the place mate. I remember reading few articles how multiple companies were forced to change their positions on Tawain or other issues that are sensitive to China because they would have lost the Chinese market.

        • In addition to risk of losing the China market, another reason given is to avoid endangering colleagues in China. Basically, it’s a standover or intimidation racket. It’s tantamount to a hostage situation.

      • No. I heard it from a few people I know at multinationals. Presumably articles will emerge over time if it becomes widespread. Interesting thing is, it is not just limited to companies that export to China, it is also companies that produce there.

  7. The90kwbeastMEMBER

    That’s the first thing I thought too.

    Shouldn’t the government instead offer increased funding for those who sign on board, to fix the decade/s long issue of lack of govt. funding for our unis?

    • 1000

      nah mate – We expect Chyna to fund us but at same time we can keep lecturing them on human rights and whatever

      • The90kwbeastMEMBER

        It’s an interesting dichotomy for the Uni’s to manage clearly, with money (who would have thought) currently the winner.

  8. Professor Walker found that 33 universities had completed work to implement the model
    code, but only nine had policies that fully aligned with the French proposal. These included the University of Sydney, RMIT, University of Queensland, and the University of Western Australia.

    😲 UQ is trying to cover it’s appalling behaviors or is it all just for show?

    • chuckmuscleMEMBER

      Completely agree. What’s the enforcement mechanism here? Or is it merely a token effort to “display free speech” meanwhile it is mercilessly crushed. Or does Taiwan being part of China considered the same as the holocaust; deny either one and you’re a Nazi sympathizer?

  9. Nothing new. But then again is it China or is it our scum politicians who allowed/allow this to happen. Why on earth we allowed so many foreign students to start with? Why on earth we allowed so many from a single country? Where are strategic thinkers?
    Off course China will expect to have a say at the table. They fund our Unies these days, so no, we can’t have our independence as long as we depend on Chinese money instead of our Gov/Taxpay money.

  10. The university’s working group recommended teaching material avoid any mention of topics which may be politically inaccurate, citing territories of China as one example.

    Politically inaccurate? That’s a new one. What does it even mean? Anything that the CCP doesn’t like, I suppose.

    To hell with these dogs.

  11. The federal government must:
    cap international student numbers, enforce freedom of speech protocols, and tighten entry standards; and
    ban the 13 Confucius Institutes or kick them off campus at minimum. The US and Sweden are systematically shutting them already.
    If universities do not comply, the federal government should threaten them with funding cuts.

    All reasonable ideas.