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China cuts partnerships with US universities in Western education crackdown

Ben Zeisloft, Campus Reform

China is removing ties with American universities amid a broader crackdown on its education sector.

As a report from the South China Morning Post explains, the nation’s Ministry of Education slashed partnerships with top colleges including New York University and the University of Florida. Other prominent Western universities to be affected by the cuts are City University London, the University of Southern Queensland, and the University of Leeds.

However, China Daily, a newspaper controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, claims that the “cancellation lists” are not new and were published in 2018 and 2019.

The move came shortly after Chinese authorities introduced new regulations for the nation’s $120 billion on the private education industry.

“As part of a broad crackdown on for-profit tutoring that’s subjecting Chinese kids to grueling schedules of after-school tutoring and large expenses to their parents, the party-government is trying to shut down the industry,” University of Miami political science professor June Teufel Dreyer told Campus Reform. 

“Since a big part of it involves partnership with US educational companies and colleges, including SAT preparation, they also want to be sure that kids aren’t learning ideas that might cause them to challenge the party-government,” she explained.

The Chinese Communist Party has effectively banned for-profit tutoring in the interest of cutting costs for families; previously, parents solicited expensive tutoring services throughout a child’s education to prepare them for the National College Entrance Examination, which determines whether a Chinese student is eligible for undergraduate education.

American experts suspect, however, that China’s revision of foreign university partnerships will not affect Confucius Institutes — joint educational initiatives between Chinese and American universities.

“This doesn’t touch the Confucius Institutes,” Teufel Dreyer said.

Though Confucius Institutes are branded as language and cultural exchanges, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the program as “part of the Chinese Communist Party’s global influence and propaganda apparatus.”

James Giordano, a neurology professor at Georgetown University, and senior fellow in Biosecurity, Technology and Ethics at the US Naval War College, told Campus Reform that the terminated partnerships represent a larger government policy.

“It may represent, in part, an increasing posture to ‘centralize’ higher education within China, and to attract foreign students to China for study, rather than simply developing extra-national programs in US universities” he argued.

“What would be interesting to note is whether the financial investment portfolios in these universities or others have equally been ‘killed,’ or these remain in place and operational so as to establish shareholdings relevant to potential intellectual property,” Giordano added.

Campus Reform has reached out to the University of Florida and New York University, but did not receive a response.

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