German University Abandons Plans for Confucius Institute

June 8, 2015

Stuttgart Media University, in Germany, has scuttled plans to establish a Confucius Institute due to stated concerns over finances, the Stuttgarter-Zeitung reported (in German). The university had signed a contract to found a Confucius Institute with Hanban, the Chinese government entity that oversees and funds the overseas institutes for Chinese language and culture study, in August of 2014.

A spokeswoman for Stuttgart Media University told Inside Higher Ed that plans to establish a Confucius Institute together with Hohenheim University "will not be realized at the moment. After various discussions with representatives of politics and economy we did not succeed in finding the necessary support for this project."

The Students for a Free Tibet organization issued a press release last week celebrating the development as a win for academic freedom and democratic values. The group reports that it has sent nearly 300 letters to senior university officials in 30 countries urging them to close the controversial Confucius Institutes, which have been criticized on the grounds that the universities that host them cede control over teaching to the Chinese government.

Pema Dolma, the campaigns director for Students for a Free Tibet, said that Stuttgart Media was among the universities that activists were targeting -- and that she feels confident the university’s decision was linked to their campaign. “The Confucius Institute controversy is worldwide and a lot of people are talking about it and of course universities and administrators are thinking twice about if they want to be linked to this,” she said. Universities that have announced closures of their Confucius Institutes in the past year include Pennsylvania State University, Stockholm University and the University of Chicago.

This article has been updated to incorporate Stuttgart Media's response.

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