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Media release: Foreign Interference Guidelines find balance between threats and opportunities

The Group of Eight (Go8), comprising Australia’s leading research-intensive universities has played a central role in the development of the refreshed Guidelines to Counter Foreign interference in the Australian University Sector, released today.

Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said the Go8’s commitment to Australia’s national security has always been paramount, as demonstrated by the leading role the Go8 played with the security agencies in developing the original University Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT) Guidelines in November 2019, ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Since then, the geopolitical situation for Australia and its universities has changed significantly and so the refreshed Guidelines deliver specific and measurable actions universities can apply to protect against the risks of foreign interference,” she said.

“Growing geopolitical tensions are creating complexities that must be managed. At all times we work in the national interest. The Go8 carries out 70 percent of Australia’s university research and we have had to ensure – in developing UFIT 2.0 – that our universities are not subject to overreach, yet able to protect that which must be protected.

“This balanced approach is critical to safeguarding our place as world research leaders while also being proactive to any potential threats. It is also important to acknowledge that some of the increased measures outlined in the refreshed Guidelines could themselves create additional risk, and these also need to be managed in partnership with Government.

“The Guidelines, which cover governance and risk frameworks; communication, education and knowledge sharing; due diligence, risk assessments and management; and cybersecurity, should be considered by universities proportionate to their risk.

“It must never be ignored that the majority of Go8 international interactions are positive and vital to Australia’s continued prosperity and economic growth. The refreshed Guidelines – UFIT 2.0 – have recognised this critical balance.

“They will be an important tool to ensure the development of new knowledge and technological innovations continue to benefit every Australian while enabling our universities to maintain their world-leading position,” Ms Thomson said.

Contact: Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 417 808 472