Oxford University’s chancellor has warned of national security risks when academics collaborate with China.
Lord Patten, who was the last British governor of Hong Kong, said there should be a point of contact in the Government for universities chiefs to turn to if they are concerned about a particular project.
Joint academic research projects in the field of humanities as well as the sciences could be pose security risks, he added.
“If the Government has anxieties about a company, then it should be possible for a university – if it is being offered research collaboration with that company – to ask somewhere in Government what’s happening,” Lord Patten told the foreign affairs select committee.
“I think the more we talk about this – as the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Canadians, and the Americans are – the more we talk about it and the more we’re grown up about it, first of all the more likely we are to get things right and pick up things like intellectual property theft and problems of security.”
Lord Patten, a cross-bench peer and former chair of the Conservative Party, said it would be “astonishing” if China was not exercising soft coercion on academics and students in the West, by funding or collaborating on research.
It emerged this week that Oxford University has cuts ties with Huawei, the Chinese technology company, amid security concerns.
An email sent to computer science doctoral students at the university warned students not to pass sensitive information to Huawei employees. The university said that it has decided not “pursue new funding opportunities” with Huawei Technologies Co Ltd or its related companies.