A proactive approach by the university sector to the threat of foreign interference helps to safeguard the reputation of Australian universities, protect academic freedom, and ensure our academic institutions and the Australian economy can maximise the benefits of research endeavours. Such a response is consistent with Australia’s Counter Foreign Interference (CFI) Strategy, which aims to increase the cost and reduce the benefit to foreign governments of conducting foreign interference in Australia.
The majority of international interactions are welcome and to Australia’s benefit. However, there may be foreign actors who seek to engage in foreign interference in the university sector, through:
- efforts to alter or direct the research agenda
- economic pressure
- solicitation and recruitment of post-doctoral researchers and academic staff; and
- cyber intrusions
These guidelines recognise university autonomy. They are not intended to be prescriptive. Key themes and objectives have been identified to help manage and engage with risk to deepen resilience against foreign interference. Best practice considerations supplement the key themes and objectives to further assist decision-makers in their risk management.
Universities already have policies, frameworks, systems and processes to ensure a positive security culture.
The purpose of these guidelines is to emphasise educative and policy responses to assist decision-makers to assess the risks from foreign interference and promote risk mitigation strategies.
These guidelines are informed from international experience and draw on risk management policies, and security practices already implemented by Australian universities.
Key themes and objectives are:
- underpinned by an objective statement to manage and engage risk to deepen resilience against foreign interference;
- supported by questions, which are not intended to be prescriptive, but designed to guide universities in addressing the range of emerging risks in global higher education arising from foreign interference appropriate to their own context; and
- intended to support an environment of trust and confidence across the university sector to guide decision-making based on proportionality of risks and an environment of continuous improvement.
Best practice considerations:
- provide more specific guidance to assist decision-makers address key themes and objectives;
- are evolving and subject to continuous improvement, including further supplementation of university sector best practice considerations;
- aimed to assist decision-makers to enhance a positive security culture to help safeguard against foreign interference;
- intended to support decision-makers balance priorities proportionate to the risk and acknowledge the different capability and maturity levels across the sector; and
- not intended to impose additional compliance or regulatory burden. Universities may determine how best practice considerations may be applied and incorporated given their operations and proportionality of risk.