China Exerts More Control Over Foreign Universities

November 20, 2017

The Chinese Communist Party is seeking to exert more control over foreign universities, raising concerns that guarantees of academic freedom will not be honored, the Financial Times reported. A directive from the Education Ministry affects joint ventures operated by Chinese and foreign universities, including full-fledged campuses such as New York University’s campus in Shanghai, a joint venture with East China Normal University, or Duke University's campus in Kunshan, a joint venture with Wuhan University. The directive reportedly orders party secretaries at joint ventures to be given vice chancellor status and a seat on the boards of trustees.

"This changes the nature of the game and has ominous potential [consequences] for academic freedom," one person briefed on the regulations told the Financial Times.

NYU Shanghai’s vice chancellor, Jeffrey Lehman, said that the chancellor for the Shanghai campus, Yu Lizhong, already serves as party secretary and as chairman of the board and has never interfered in the university’s academic freedom.

“From the beginning, we were assured that NYUSH would operate with academic freedom. That promise has been kept for the last four years,” Lehman said. “Academic freedom is fundamental to our identity. We have not received any directives that would change things, and I don’t expect to receive any in the future.”

China's Ministry of Education was not available to comment for the Financial Times article.

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