Universities also told to report on China connections . . .
Alberta’s Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, has instructed the province’s four major universities – the University of Alberta, the University of Calgary, the University of Lethbridge, and Athabasca University – to stop pursuing relationships with China. Universities’ boards of governors have also been directed to prepare, within 90 days, details of the “scope and scale” of any existing connections to Chinese government agencies, institutions, or companies, as well as all agreements, institutional and research relationships, and joint ventures with the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party. The directive is broad and tellingly asks universities to identify the “implications of withdrawing” from their China relationships.
Province cites lack of federal leadership . . .
The Government of Alberta said it undertook the measures out of concern over the potential theft of intellectual property by Chinese partners, including concerns that such partnerships may be used by the Chinese military and intelligence services. Minister Nicolaides stated that the government is concerned about foreign state infiltration into the province’s universities and research and innovation centres. The move comes as Canadian universities and researchers have clamoured for detailed guidelines from the federal government on interacting with Chinese partners. Ottawa has tasked the Government of Canada-Universities Working Group with developing new guidelines that reflect national security concerns. The group, which consists of the federal government, universities, and associations representing universities, is expected to report on its work in June.
A call for federal guidelines . . .
Other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have been proactive in framing the risks of research collaborations with China while also emphasizing their importance. For example, Australia launched the “Guidelines to Counter Foreign Interference in the Australian University Sector” in 2019. In March 2021, New Zealand released “Trusted Research: Guidance for Institutions and Researchers.” While both documents recognize the risks associated with international partnerships, they also highlight the need for academic collaboration, the importance of independence for academic institutions, and the non-prescriptive nature of their guidelines. Finding a balance between academic freedoms and promoting innovation and international collaboration, while also protecting national security at the subnational level, is a difficult but essential task.
- Edmonton Journal: Alberta government orders suspension of new university research with links to Chinese government
- The Globe and Mail: Alberta orders major universities to suspend pursuit of new partnerships with China
- University World News: Despite concerns, should universities engage with China?