UK universities are creating new online links to their Chinese students to allow them to continue their studies remotely from September, News writer Katie Porteous reports.

Written by Katie Porteous
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Images by Philip Jagenstedt

UK universities are creating new online links to their Chinese students to allow them to continue their studies remotely from September.

China’s restrictions on the internet mean that some websites are blocked, leading to concerns that students trying to complete their degree online from China would not be able to access all the required materials.

Chinese students now make up over a quarter of all international students at UK universities and therefore make up an important portion of their revenue. keeping these students enrolled at their British universities – even if they cannot fly back for the new term due to coronavirus restrictions – is crucial to the cash flow of many institutions.

The new system will connect students in China to the network of the university using Alibaba Cloud, a Chinese internet company. The students will only be able to access the resources that are added to a controlled list by the university rather than being able to look at anything on the internet.

However, Professor Kerry Brown from King’s College London warned in an essay for the Higher Education Policy Institute that universities risk censorship when adapting for the Chinese system. The foreign affairs select committee have cautioned against teaching topics that are sensitive to China such as the treatment of Uighur Muslims or the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square. 

The universities body University UK said in a statement that they were ‘not aware of any instances when course content has been altered.’ They also insisted that creating this link was not risking academic freedom and free speech, rather it was just allowing their students to continue their studies.

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