Academics, Students to Be Taught to Identify Foreign Interference on Campus: Report

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
September 6, 2021 Updated: September 6, 2021

Australian university staff and students will be taught how to recognize foreign interference threats on campus and report them to authorities under newly proposed rules.

The changes have been put forward as part of the new foreign interference guidelines for universities. They are intended to strengthen their ability to counter influence from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald.

As part of Australia’s increasing vigilance against the threat of the CCP, the guidelines say staff and students will “receive training on, and have access to information about how foreign interference can manifest on campus and how to raise concerns in the university or with appropriate authorities.”

Those involved in international research collaborations will also be taught how to “recognize, mitigate and handle concerns of foreign interference,” due to security concerns around stolen research.

The Epoch Times has not seen the proposed guidelines.

The rules were drafted by the Universities Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT), which was established in 2019 to provide universities better protection in four areas: Cyber Security; Research and Intellectual Property; Foreign Collaboration; and Culture and Communications.

It comes after Human Rights Watch published a report that highlighted how students from China remained under the surveillance of the CCP, despite being in a democratic country outside of China.

In response, Education Minister Alan Tudge wrote on Twitter that the government would update its foreign interference guidelines with the recommendations from the report in mind.

Epoch Times Photo
Education Minister Alan Tudge speaks during a media conference at Parliament House on Sept. 4, 2020, in Canberra, Australia. (David Gray/Getty Images)

University leaders and government officials are still in the process of discussing the details of the rules, how they would be effectively implemented, and concerns around consequences for universities if they fail to implement them.

Universities have reportedly been pushing back against some efforts to fight the threat of foreign interference. A plan to require all academics to declare their membership of overseas political parties faced heavy backlash, causing UFIT to back down on the proposal.

However, Labor Senator Kim Carr described the plans as a “gross overreach” in privacy.

“We haven’t had an explanation as to who this information is being collected for and for what purpose,” Carr told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Who gets access to it? Is it subject to freedom of information laws?”

In a parliamentary inquiry in March, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) said universities were vulnerable to hostile foreign intelligence services.

“The threat will come at the institution and the students through different ways, depending on what they’re after—information, or to shape the environment so that it doesn’t do things that are counter to that nation’s interest,” ASIO Director-General of Security Mike Burgess said, noting that “one country in particular” was highly active.

“Across the board, espionage and foreign interference is at a height that we have not seen since the height of the Cold War. It is a significant security risk that does need to be managed effectively by this country and the research and university sector,” Burgess said.

Rebecca Zhu