Universities: Freedom of Expression

Department for Education written question – answered at on 13 February 2024.

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Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, if she will make an assessment of the potential impact of universities accepting funding from entities linked to the Chinese People's Liberation Army on academic freedom.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Minister of State (Education)

The Integrated Review Refresh, which this government published in March 2023, sets out in clear terms the UK’s policy towards engagement with China and Chinese entities.

Higher education (HE) providers are autonomous institutions and are responsible for ensuring they have adequate governance, risk management procedures and policies in place, including on the acceptance of donations. HE providers will also have their own due diligence procedures which should consider reputational, ethical and security risks.

The department expects the HE sector to be alert to risks when collaborating with any international partners. Guidance published by Universities UK advises HE providers how to engage in international collaborations safely and securely. This guidance also includes a recommendation that due diligence should be conducted on all international partnerships and it is available here: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/what-we-do/policy-and-research/publications/managing-risks-internationalisation.

The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023 will ensure that HE providers in England have the tools they need to deal with interference with, and threats to, freedom of speech and academic freedom wherever they originate. The Act will enable the Office for Students to monitor the overseas funding of registered HE providers and their constituent institutions and student’s unions, and to take appropriate action. Provisions in the Act dealing with overseas funding are expected to come into force from 1 September 2025.

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