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The China question revisited: “de-risking” higher education and research

Efforts to reduce UK universities’ dependence on China have in some cases stalled or are going backwards, according to this study, led by former universities minister Jo Johnson and published in collaboration with the Institute for Scientific Information at ClarivateTM and Education Insight.

UK institutions benefit from the higher tuition fees paid by Chinese students, while China has also become an increasingly entrenched collaborator on research, as well as a key source of doctoral students crucial to the strength of the UK’s research system, the report says.

Sudden disruption to student flows and collaboration because of further geopolitical tensions with China would therefore be highly damaging for the UK’s knowledge economy.

Diversifying the higher education sector’s international tuition income flows and widening the network of research relationships is therefore essential, yet some indicators suggest this process has halted or even reversed.

At the same time, the study cautions that the current lack of clarity about how to engage with China may lead universities to adopt an unduly risk-averse approach, limiting collaboration unnecessarily.

Project status: Completed