Group of Eight (Go8) universities have lodged over 4,000 international arrangements for review as part of the Australian Government’s Foreign Relations Scheme (FRS), demonstrating the commitment of Go8 members to supporting Australian foreign policy.
The Government’s FRS makes provision for the Foreign Minister to review and potentially cancel or vary arrangements between international governments and agencies (including certain foreign universities), and Australian State or Territory entities (governments, local councils and universities), if not deemed in alignment with Australia’s foreign policy and foreign relations
“International engagement through Go8 universities, which requires agreements between partners, is crucial to Australia’s national interests through research, education and attracting international talent to Australian shores,” said Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson.
“The Go8, which represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities and undertakes almost 70 percent of Australian university research activity, takes the integrity of these arrangements extremely seriously. Go8 universities rigorously review arrangements with a focus on defence sensitivity issues, compliance with sanctions regimes, foreign influence and in the context of Australia’s foreign policy.
“This process has been a huge logistical and administrative challenge, with the complexity of the legislation putting potentially thousands of arrangements in the frame. Fortunately, close collaboration between the Go8 and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has brought some clarity to the application of the legislation. There is however more to be done as some universities were required to review in detail as many as 75 agreements for every one agreement lodged with the FRS.
“In addition, the prospect of cancellations or forced variations of arrangements is likely to have a chilling effect on international collaborations involving Australian universities, with collateral adverse impacts on Australian industry partners.
“The impact of this legislation has not gone unnoticed by current and potential international partners of Go8 universities. A number have already signalled a refusal to renew agreements with Go8 members, because of the uncertainty and risk to normal business which the FRS introduces. It will be critical to the future of Australia’s globally competitive tertiary education sector that our international partners can have confidence in their arrangements with us. “Despite these challenges, Go8 universities will continue to support Australia’s national interest by working diligently with Government to ensure that the FRS is effective and efficient, and that the FRS operates in a way that minimises disruption and harm to the sector,” said Ms Thomson.