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In 2019, China and the UK collaborated on 16,267 research papers – up from around 750 in 2000. This amounts to around 11 per cent of the UK’s research output now including Chinese authors – up from just 1 per cent 20 years ago, as indexed in the Web of Science global citation index.

This report builds a picture of Chinese integration in UK higher education and research.

There are now no fewer than 20 subject categories in which collaborations with China account for more than 20 per cent of the UK’s high-impact research. In three key subjects – automation and control systems; telecommunications; and materials science, ceramics – collaborations with China represent more than 30 per cent of such output.

The authors argue this heightened degree of integration makes any idea of decoupling from China both unviable and unlikely to be in the national interest, but does signal the need for a clear and strategic approach to research collaboration that is capable of mitigating real risks.

Higher education exports to China represent the UK’s single largest services export to any country. But reliance on significant tuition fee income from Chinese students to cross-subsidise loss-making research creates a strategic dependency and potential vulnerability, the report says.

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