Pennsylvania State University is the second institution within a week to confirm that it will not be continuing its agreement to host a Confucius Institute, a center for Chinese language and cultural training funded by the Chinese government. In confirming that the university will be ending its Confucius Institute agreement at the end of this year (Dec. 31), the dean of Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts cited goals that are inconsistent with those of Hanban, the Chinese government agency that administers the institutes.
“Over the past five years, our Asian Studies has grown successfully from a program to become a full department,” Dean Susan Welch said in a written statement. “We worked collegially with our partners at the Dalian University of Technology. However, several of our goals are not consistent with those of the Office of Chinese Languages Council International, known as the Hanban, which provides support to Confucius Institutes throughout the world.”
A Penn State spokeswoman declined to elaborate on specific ways in which the university's goals differ from those of Hanban.
One professor in the Asian Studies department and a former director of Penn State's Confucius Institute said he suspected that the institute might not have been providing enough of a return on the investment the university was putting into it. "I will say that in my experience as CI director one of the major frustrations with the relationship was that we consistently had more ambitious ideas for the ways CI funding could be used -- mainly to support research not only in the humanities or on Chinese culture, but also on science, politics, the environment, and a variety of other topics -- that the Hanban regularly rejected as too far outside the official CI ambit (which they would tell us was mainly 'cultural')," Eric Hayot, a professor of comparative literature and Asian studies, said via email. (Hayot said he was not involved in the decision to end the Confucius Institute relationship.)
"Because the CI did not provide much support for our very robust Chinese-language program -- we did not use Chinese teachers from the Hanban at Penn State, and did not use Hanban pedagogical material -- this meant that much of the work the CI could do was restricted to a fairly narrow range of activities within the university -- cultural activities and events by visiting Chinese troupes promoted by the Hanban, for instance -- and then some other activities outside the university (support for community events, and so on)," Hayot said.
Broadly speaking, the Confucius Institutes, which are located at about 90 U.S. universities, have been controversial for reasons related to academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Many have pointed to a lack of critical programming on politically sensitive subjects such as the Tiananmen Square massacre at the Confucius institutes, which are typically staffed, in part, by language instructors hired by Hanban and which often use Hanban teaching materials. The American Association of University Professors issued a statement this summer urging universities to cease their involvement with Confucius Institutes unless they can renegotiate their contracts to ensure certain terms are met. The AAUP statement said that in hosting the institutes “North American universities permit Confucius Institutes to advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate.”
Just last week, the University of Chicago announced that it was suspending negotiations to renew its Confucius Institute agreement, which expired on Monday. The university cited as its reason an article that appeared in the Chinese press that made it appear as if the university was being intimidated into maintaining the relationship. More than 100 faculty at Chicago signed a petition last spring calling for the Confucius Institute’s closure.
While women's colleges and universities are declining in number in the U.S. and Europe, they play a growing role in providing access and developing female leaders around the world, writes Kristen Renn.
Draft legislation in Egypt would give university leaders the power to fire professors and others without, critics say, anything resembling due process, Ahram Online reported. The proposed legislation follows a new law allowing the government to appoint university heads, and that law has added to concerns about the new legislation.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Program is expected to post new draft guidance regarding the certification of pathway programs for international students today. The guidance, which is the second such draft, defines a pathway program as a “postsecondary program of study combining nonremedial and remedial coursework to prepare a student who is unable to meet the requirements for admission into a degree program.” It specifies that SEVP can certify a pathway program only if it consists of at least one nonremedial course per session and if all the student’s nonremedial courses are applicable toward graduation requirements. The guidance also stipulates that in pathway programs that consist of an English as a Second Language component, all schools involved the ESL portion of the program must be in compliance with the Accreditation of English Language Training Programs Act.
As Inside Higher Edhas reported, many universities have turned to third-party corporate partners to help administer and deliver their pathway programs for international students.
SEVP will be accepting public comments on the draft guidance for a 45-day period.
A Chinese court has sentenced a university professor found guilty of "separatism" to life in prison, The New York Times reported. The Times said that the sentence is the most severe in recent years to a dissident. Ilham Tohti, the professor, teaches economics at Minzu University and is an advocate for ethnic Uighurs. In 2013, he had been expected to take a visiting position at Indiana University at Bloomington, but Chinese authorities blocked him from leaving the country.
Thousands of university students in Hong Kong boycotted classes on Monday to demonstrate against Chinese government restrictions on voting rights, The New York Timesreported. Organizers said that more than 13,000 students attended a Monday rally to protest a proposed change to election rules in which a nominating committee loyal to the leadership in Beijing would be able to screen candidates for the Hong Kong city government’s top post. Hong Kong, a former British colony, was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and operates as a semi-autonomous region.