University of Kansas will close Confucius Institute

December 17, 2019 GMT

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas plans to close its Confucius Institute in January, in part because federal funding for universities that host the China-linked facilities has been reduced.

An email distributed Monday to faculty and staff from University of Kansas interim Provost Carl Lejuez said the school believes strong engagement with China is critical to U.S. higher education, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.

“However, a Confucius Institute is not a necessary component for KU to productively engage with China, support collaborative faculty research, and prepare students,” Lejuez wrote.

A military spending bill passed in August 2018 restricts Department of Defense funds to universities that sponsor Confucius Institutes. Supporters of the restrictions noted the institutes are affiliated with the Chinese Ministry of Education, which raised concerns about possible political influence in academics. Former FBI Director Christopher Wray and some Republican U.S. senators said the organizations promoted the China’s Communist Party and might engage in espionage.

The Confucius Institutes provides education in Chinese language and culture. At one point, China had about 500 Confucius Institutes around the world, including more than 100 in the U.S., but several universities closed the organizations in response to the criticism.

Kansas’ Confucius Institute opened in 2006. It was established in part by Central China Normal University and the Office of Chinese Language Council International, also known as Hanban, which provides partial funding.

In 2014, the American Association of University Professors recommended that universities move away from Confucius Institutes, saying the institutes “function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom.”

As of October, there were 89 Confucius Institutes still in the United States, according to the National Association of Scholars.

In his email, Lejuez said Kansas will continue its Mandarin Chinese language programs for K-12 students in Kansas through the academic year. He also wrote that the university’s agreement with CCNU will not be affected by the institute’s closing.