Fears of Chinese influence in Qld unis

EDUCATION Minister Dan Tehan has issued a sharp rebuke to universities over growing concerns of Chinese Government influence in the institutions.

Inquiries are already under way into whether any of the institutions have breached foreign influence transparency obligations.

It follows the outing of arrangements between 11 Australian universities, including the University of Queensland, Griffith University and QUT, and the Beijing-linked Confucius Institute.

Chinese students clash with pro-Hong Kong protesters at UQ this week.
Chinese students clash with pro-Hong Kong protesters at UQ this week.

But the Queensland universities have defended the arrangements and argue they don't need to be registered under the foreign influence scheme, with at least one already seeking legal advice.

There were clashes between pro-Hong Kong and pro-China protesters at UQ's Confucius Centre this week.

Confucius Institute education centres are set up to provide Chinese language and culture courses at universities.

Contracts revealed with UQ and Griffith "must accept the assessment of the (Confucius Institute) Headquarters on the teaching quality", though QUT has retained control over its content.

There are concerns the contracts give Beijing too much control over what is taught and how, which could be used to spread influence or propaganda.

Mr Tehan said he would be discussing the matter with the vice-chancellors in early August.

"The Australian Government expects our universities to have robust mechanisms in place to ensure international education partnerships comply with Australian laws, education quality standards and academic freedoms," he said.


The Attorney-General's Department is examining if the deals comply with the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme, which requires people and organisations who have arrangements with foreign agents to declare their interests on a public register.

UQ, Griffith and QUT stated yesterday that they did not believe their activities were required to be registered under the scheme.

A UQ spokeswoman said the institution was aware of its obligations and it would ensure it complied.

It is currently renegotiating its contract and the scheme "will be front of mind, as will the University's commitment to university autonomy over all content, standards, admissions, examinations, staffing and academic freedom", the spokeswoman said.

A Griffith University spokesman said they had said legal advice to confirm its Tourism Tourism Confucius Institute was not registrable under the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme.

He said the TCI did not teach undergraduate or postgraduate degrees, but offered cultural and language programs.

A QUT spokeswoman said the university retained control over content.