LONDON (Reuters) – Britain is to tighten rules about which subjects foreign students can study at its universities in a move to prevent the theft of intellectual property by Chinese students, the Times newspaper reported on Thursday.
Under Britain’s Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), postgraduate applicants from abroad already require security vetting to study subjects where their knowledge could be used in weapons programmes, according to a government website.
The Times report said the list of subjects would be expanded to include areas related to cyber-security and aircraft, among others.
Asked to comment on the report, the Foreign Office said the government had implemented a recent expansion of ATAS to cover military technology, to ensure Britain’s safeguards were keeping up with ever-changing global threats.
“As an open country, we welcome foreign students, including from China, where they add to the academic richness of our world-leading universities,” a spokeswoman said in a statement.
“But we will not accept collaborations which compromise our national security and ATAS is one of the robust procedures we have in place to protect national security and counter foreign interference.”
According to the Times, the measures were expected to block hundreds of Chinese students from entering Britain, while visas for those already enrolled would be revoked if they were deemed to pose a risk.
According to the ATAS website, applicants from countries belonging to the European Economic Area and from Switzerland are exempt from the scheme, meaning they do not require vetting to study the affected subjects.
(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)