UK universities co-fund politicised scholarship program for Chinese students.

UK universities are awarding funding to Chinese students on the basis of their commitment to the values of the Chinese Communist Party. While studying in the UK, recipients of funding have their speech severely restricted by the Chinese Communist Party. 

The Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC) is the principal organisation through which the Chinese state funds Chinese students’ study abroad. The CSC partners with 40 UK universities, including every single Russell Group university, to jointly fund a number of Chinese postgraduate students admitted to UK universities. Typically, UK universities pay the students’ tuition fees, and the Chinese Scholarship Council pays their maintenance as, for instance, at the University of Warwick. Initial nominations for funding are made by UK universities. The final selection for funding, including the funding awarded by UK universities, is carried out entirely by the CSC. 

The CSC publishes its “Rules for selection for scholarships” online – in Chinese. A translation of the 2023 Rules has been made by UK-China Transparency, a charity which aims to provide information on the ties between China and UK institutions. The rules contain the following passage: 

Article 7: Basic requirements for applicants 

  1. Support the leadership of the Communist Party of China and Socialism with Chinese Characteristics; love the motherland; be a person of good moral character; abide by the law; maintain a sense of responsibility to serve the country, serve society, and serve the people; and have a correct world view, a correct outlook on life, and correct values. 

UK university funding is being awarded to applicants on the basis of satisfying these requirements. 

While recipients of CSC scholarships are studying in the UK their speech and research are controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Recipients of funding sign a legal contract with the CSC. A copy of one of these contracts has been discovered and translated by Georgetown University. The contract requires students to: 

not engage in activities that harm the interests and security of the motherland… consciously safeguard the honour of the motherland, obey the guidance and management of [Chinese] embassies abroad, abide by the laws of China 

This is a prohibition on speaking about, and conducting research on (amongst other issues) democracy, human rights, corruption, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Tibet, and the mass internment of Uyghurs. The prohibition is enforced by the requirement that recipients register at the Chinese embassy within 10 days of arriving in the UK, and “regularly submit” formal “Situation Reports” to the Chinese embassy. 

In addition, recipients must have two guarantors. In the event that a recipient breaks the contract, for instance, by criticising the CCP or failing to submit “situation reports”, funding is withdrawn, and the guarantors must pay back the entirety of the amount awarded by the scholarship, and up to an additional 30% in damages.  

In its recent proposed Guidance on Freedom of Speech, the Office for Students states that it is illegal for universities to “admit students or visiting academics on the basis of funding arrangements or other criteria that have the effect of restricting their or others’ free speech or academic freedom within the law”.  

UK universities are funding Chinese students on the basis of their support for the CCP’s values. Recipients of funding are censored by the CCP while they are studying at UK universities. There are currently more than 646 CSC scholarships in the UK. This is appalling, and almost certainly illegal. The CSC scholarship program must end.