Sunday 26 January 2020

Irish links to Chinese university at centre of protests


Grip: Chinese President Xi Jinping targets higher education. Picture: Reuters
Grip: Chinese President Xi Jinping targets higher education. Picture: Reuters
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

A leading Chinese university with strong ties to UCD and TCD is at the centre of student and academic protests after it changed its charter to put a pledge of absolute loyalty to the ruling Communist Party above academic independence.

Shanghai's Fudan University is one of three universities to have revised their charters, amid concerns that the party is strengthening its grip on higher education under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

The changes, approved by the Chinese ministry of education earlier this month, became public this week, triggering a wave of critical online comments from academics and students at Fudan.

In a rare move, students also staged a demonstration in the university's cafeteria.

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Fudan, ranked 109th in the UK-based 'Times Higher Education' world university rankings, has long been considered one of China's more liberal higher education institutions.

Under the charter changes, references to academic freedom have been replaced with "serving the governance of the Communist Party" and "dedication to patriotism."

University College Dublin (UCD) has had links with Fudan for about 17 years and, most recently, announced a joint master's degree programme in software engineering.

UCD also hosts a Confucius Institute, in partnership with the Beijing-based Renmin University where, it is reported, similar amendments to its charter were made in recent months.

Meanwhile, Trinity College Dublin (TCD) signed a partnership agreement with Fudan in 2014, in the presence of President Michael D Higgins during a State visit to China.

Asked to comment on developments at Fudan, a TCD spokesperson said last night: "We keep all our relationships under review."

Irish Independent

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