Constraints on Chinese Campuses

A U.S. Government Accountability Office review of 12 American universities operating in China identified internet censorship and reports of self-censorship as two key issues.

“University members generally indicated that they experienced academic freedom, but they also indicated that internet censorship and other factors presented constraints,” the 59-page report released Wednesday states. “Administrators said they generally controlled curriculum content, and faculty and students said they could teach or study what they chose. However, fewer than half of the universities GAO reviewed have uncensored internet access.

“At several universities that lacked uncensored internet access, students and faculty told us that, as a result, they sometimes faced challenges teaching, conducting research and completing course work. Administrators, faculty and students also cited examples of self-censorship, where certain sensitive political topics -- such as Tiananmen Square or China’s relationship with Taiwan -- were avoided in class, and of constraints faced by Chinese students in particular.”

The report further notes that those U.S. institutions approved by the Chinese Ministry of Education as having independent legal status, a category that includes the branch campuses of Duke, Kean and New York Universities, “share characteristics -- such as campuses located away from their Chinese university partner’s campus and extensive student life programs -- that may be correlated with greater academic freedom and other key freedoms.”

See the GAO report here: U.S. Universities in China Emphasize Academic Freedom but Face Internet Censorship and Other Challenges

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