Protecting Australian universities from foreign interference

Joint Media Release
  • Minister for Home Affairs
  • Minister for Education

The Australian Government and the university sector are taking a stand against foreign interference with new guidelines to ensure our students and research are protected.

The Morrison Government, working in collaboration with the university sector and national security agencies, has produced Guidelines to counter foreign interference in the Australian university sector that sets out practical steps universities can take to preserve the integrity of our nation’s world-class higher education system.

Minister for Education Dan Tehan said the guidelines were developed with universities to ensure they had the policies, frameworks and strategies in place to protect against foreign interference while maintaining their autonomy.

"The Morrison Government is working with universities to ensure they have the necessary protections for students, research data, and academic integrity," Mr Tehan said.

"Working with universities and national security agencies, we have taken action to ensure universities understand the risks and know what steps to take to protect themselves."

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton said our security agencies are leading efforts across Government to respond to foreign interference and to protect our university sector.

"The Director-General of ASIO says foreign interference against Australia’s interests is at an unprecedented level that includes universities and the research sector," Mr Dutton said.

The guidelines set out five key themes backed by concrete actions that cover:

  •  Governance and risk frameworks;
  •  Due diligence;
  •  Communication and education;
  •  Knowledge sharing; and
  •  Cyber security.

"I would like to thank the co-chairs for their leadership in developing the guidelines," Mr Tehan said.

"I thank the universities for their collaborative approach. I’m confident the guidelines will help safeguard the higher education sector."

RMIT Vice Chancellor and President Martin Bean CBE, one of the co-chairs, said he was delighted to see the shared commitment of universities and the Government to safeguard the security of Australia’s university sector without undermining the invaluable asset of its openness.

"The guidelines are a fantastic new resource for universities to add to their existing tools and to assist decision makers in continuing to assess the evolving risks from foreign interference," he said.

Universities Australia will coordinate the collection of best practice examples to share across the higher education sector.

A copy of the guidelines is available online at https://www.education.gov.au/ufit

Universities Australia Chair Professor Deborah Terry AO said the nation’s university leaders commended the process and noted the university sector’s strong commitment throughout.

"This has genuinely been an equal partnership between universities and Government. Our shared aim is to build on existing protections against foreign interference, without damaging the openness and global engagement that are essential to Australia’s success," she said.

"The intent is not to add to the regulatory or compliance burden for universities, nor to contravene university autonomy – but to enhance resources and intelligence to further safeguard our people, research and technology."

For more information

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