The Guardian view on academia and autocracies: stand firm | Editorial

Universities are hungry for international students and funding. But they must not compromise their fundamental values

Education is one of Britain’s most successful exports, bringing in almost £20bn a year. Universities and ministers love to talk up its economic benefits. They are less keen to discuss the costs and compromises incurred.

That makes a new report, on defending democracy in an age of autocracies, all the more important. The foreign affairs select committee found clear evidence that such states are seeking to shape the research agenda or curricula of UK universities and limit the activities of researchers. Witnesses said that, after contact from Chinese diplomats, one vice-chancellor asked a senior academic not to make political comments, and a pro-vice-chancellor cancelled a speaker. There is anecdotal evidence of Gulf states exerting similar pressure.

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