Oxford's oldest student newspaper

Independent since 1920

St Antony’s College signs deal with top Chinese university

St Antony’s College has recently signed a 5-year deal with Tsinghua University and received $130,000 to take on two fellows from the University per year. Tsinghua is the top university in China where most leaders of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including the president Xi Jingping, studied – they have been nicknamed the “Tsinghua clique”.

Some of the $130,000 sum will be paid back to the fellows as a research allowance while the rest will go towards “a number of budget lines” including a management charge for administering the programme.

Tsinghua University does not pay the fellows directly but sends them the money through St Antony’s College. As a result, Tsinghua fellows will be paid by Oxford University and will be employees of St Antony’s College. 

Tim Niblock’s, emeritus professor at the University of Exeter, told The Times: “it makes quite a lot of difference in the Chinese system whether they are simply being paid by Tsinghua to do research abroad, or whether they have some kind of a recognised status as part of another organisation. In short, the latter gives them much more kudos than the former.”

St Antony’s, which is known for its international student body, told Cherwell that they have similar partnerships with other universities, some of which are funded by similar means.

Fellowships are either self-funded, funded by specific donations held as endowment funds, or as in this case funded by external institutions.

St Antony’s said the agreement’s benefit to the College is “largely academic. Our fellows and students, based at our various internationally-known area studies centres, have productive interaction with researchers from IIAS Tsinghua, who work on various parts of the Global South on topics of interest to our academic community.” 

Asked about criticism they might receive, St Antony’s told Cherwell there are “some [express] reservations… because of objections to Chinese human rights and political issues such as the mistreatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, the repression of political rights in Hong Kong, and threats against Taiwan, while others believe it is legitimate to engage with academics at leading universities as they are not involved in state policy-making on such issues.”

The announcement of the programme follows a MI5 warning to UK universities regarding national security risks associated with international partnerships. Specifically of concern is sensitive research leaking to competitors in countries like China.

The Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith said about the agreement: “This decision is astonishing… How can Oxford care so little about the freedoms of people?” 

Check out our other content

Most Popular Articles