Apart from evidence of corruption in academia, the CCDI teams will be looking for examples of breaches of “political discipline”, including ideological problems and infiltration of “western values” such as democracy and freedom of speech.
Under Xi Jinping, the Communist party has made the revival of Marxist-Leninist teachings in education a priority. Most of the top universities in China have joint programmes or study centres set up in collaboration with western universities, including Stanford, NYU, Duke and Cornell in the US, and Nottingham and Liverpool universities in the UK.
In recent years western universities have rushed to establish themselves in China. As well as being a lucrative source of income, joint programmes serve as marketing and recruitment tools to entice Chinese students, who usually pay significantly higher tuition fees than their domestic counterparts.But the desire to attract Chinese students and operate inside China has often clashed with the traditional commitment to academic freedom in the west.
In 2016 there were nearly 330,000 Chinese students studying in the US, compared with only 60,000 in 2000. More than 90,000 Chinese students attended UK universities in 2015.During party meetings last year, Mr Xi called on Chinese universities to become “strongholds of the party’s leadership” and to integrate “ideological work” into the entire education process. Education officials have pushed universities to stop using imported textbooks imbued with “western values”.