US pushes universities to reveal details of foreign funding

Government reportedly suspects campuses are not fully transparent about global ties

June 14, 2019
Texas A&M University at Qatar
Source: iStock
Texas A&M University at Qatar

The Trump administration is demanding US universities more fully disclose their foreign sources of funding, in its latest exploration of national security concerns in academia, the Associated Press reported.

In what is understood to be the first two cases, the US Education Department has sent letters to Georgetown University and Texas A&M University demanding more details of their foreign gifts and contracts, the AP said.

More institutions are expected to receive such demands, the AP reported, citing an unnamed Trump administration official.

The letters to Georgetown and Texas A&M, according to the AP, suggest the universities have not complied with federal law requiring the institutions to report all contracts and donations from foreign sources of $250,000 (£200,000) or more.

In particular, the letters said that both universities should have reported funding related to branch campuses they operate in Qatar, along with operations involving China, Russia and Saudi Arabia, the AP reported.

Education secretary Betsy DeVos said the investigations demonstrated her department’s commitment to exercise needed oversight.

“The department expects colleges and universities to provide full, accurate, and transparent information when reporting foreign gifts and contracts,” the secretary said. “Our national security depends on it, and this is what the law requires.”

Both Georgetown and Texas A&M issued statements saying they were reviewing the letter and planning to cooperate.

The US Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a report in February saying that, despite the $250,000 disclosure requirement, it appeared that 70 per cent of US colleges receiving funding from the Chinese government’s Confucius Institute programme were not complying with it.

More than 100 US colleges have been hosting Confucius Institutes, which use Chinese funding to teach language classes on US campuses. Many US colleges have been ending those programmes, under pressure from critics in Congress and beyond.

paul.basken@timeshighereducation.com

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