Foreign Interference

UNSW Scientia building exterior

International Engagement Done Right

Joint research and collaboration with foreign research partners is critical to Australia’s success and advancement. As a world-leading research institution and global educator it is important for UNSW to properly consider the potential risks of its international engagements.

UNSW uses the University Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT) Guidelines 2021 as the central guiding tenet for increasing risk management around international engagement, and has also implemented its own Framework to Counter Foreign Interference.

Mandatory Disclosures

To make a disclosure, access the system via MyUNSW > My Staff Profile > Disclosure of Interest

As a responsible institution, UNSW needs to be aware of the affiliations and connections which exist between its employees and foreign entities including overseas universities publicly funded research  organisations, and foreign governments.

UNSW runs a mandatory disclosure scheme which requires all staff to submit annual and real-time disclosures of, among other things, foreign affiliations.  These disclosures help UNSW risk manage our activities better and ensure compliance with a range of national security legislation, and assist UNSW to meet its obligations to disclose such information to third parties including government funding agencies, such as the ARC.

UNSW’s foreign affiliations disclosure questions are taken from the University Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT) Guidelines 2021.

Foreign affiliation disclosure questions

  1. Are you receiving any financial support (cash or in-kind) for education or research related activities from a country other than Australia?
  2. Do you hold a position (paid or unpaid) or honorific titles in any foreign university, academic organisation or company, or are you under any other obligations to a foreign university, academic organisation or company (e.g. membership of a talent recruitment program)?
  3. Are you associated or affiliated with a foreign government or foreign military, policing or intelligence organisation?

Responding ‘yes’ to any of the above will require the provision of the country, name of organisations, and a summary of the financial support and positions held.

Staff are asked to make a disclosure as soon as possible should their circumstances change and the responses to the above require updating.

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme

The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme requires the registration of certain activities – such as lobbying, communications, and the disbursement of money - when they are taking place on behalf of a foreign principal.

More information about FITS is available from the Attorney-General’s Department here.

The majority of UNSW activities, including joint ventures with foreign partners, do not fall within the FITS scheme.

Foreign Arrangements Scheme

Depending on the circumstances and parties involved, new or altered agreements with foreign counterparties may require registration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Foreign Arrangements Scheme.

More information about the scheme is available from DFAT here.

Registration of an agreement is required before the agreement is signed, as well as afterwards when the details are confirmed.  For further information, contact foreignarrangements@unsw.edu.au

to determine whether the agreement requires registration.

Sanctions

All UNSW operations adhere strictly to both the United Nations Security Council sanctions and the Australian autonomous sanctions regimes.

Countries are sanctioned for various reasons, and different countries will face different restrictions.  Usually sanctions place restrictions on the following activities:

  • Supplying arms or related materiel and services;
  • Providing assets to designated persons or entities;
  • Dealing with the assets of designated persons or entities; and/or
  • Travel bans on designated persons.

If you are considering collaboration with an entity from a country under sanction, you will need to exercise particular caution to ensure the sanctions against that country, and the named entities under sanction, are not breached.

More detail is available from DFAT here.

For further information and guidance, contact foreignarrangements@unsw.edu.au.

Critical Technologies

The Australian Government has issued additional guidance around critical technologies, which are current and emerging technologies which are capable of significantly enhancing or posing risk to our national interest, whether it be economic prosperity, social cohesion or national security.

Foreign collaboration in areas of critical technology will generally be held to a higher standard of risk management and greater caution will need to be exercised in considering which foreign entities are suitable partners.

The Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet (PM&C) has established the Critical Technologies Policy Coordination Office (CTPCO) to advance this issue.  For more information, consult the Blueprint for Critical Technologies.

The current list of 63 critical technologies in the national interest is available here.

Foreign Government Harassment

Foreign interference can also take the form of harassing, intimidating or threatening behaviour directed at students and staff on behalf of a foreign government, or the improper sharing of other’s private information.

This kind of activity threatens academic freedom and freedom of speech.  Enabling foreign government harassment is a serious breach of UNSW policies and codes of conduct.

For more information, visit the Foreign Government Harassment page which includes instructions on how to make a report.

For more information visit the Foreign Government Harassment site.

ASIO NITRO Portal

ASIO has developed a portal enabling anyone to make a report to its Notable Incidents, Threats or Reportable Observations (NITRO) Portal.  This allows UNSW students and staff to report anything of national security concern directly to ASIO.

Special Advisor, International Engagement & Compliance

UNSW has appointed a Special Advisor to leads our efforts to counter foreign interference.

The Special Advisor is responsible for UNSW’s implementation of new national security legislation, building partnerships with government agencies and industry, and developing UNSW’s capability to detect, deter and deny foreign interference. 

The Special Advisor works closely with committees, working groups and teams across the University to help them understand and mitigate their exposure to foreign interference risk, including in the areas of defence research, critical technologies, cybersecurity, sensitive joint ventures, and commercially valuable projects. The Special Advisor is also able to provide an assessment of geopolitical risk for any UNSW operation.​

The Special Advisor is available to assist staff understand their exposure to foreign interference and seek advice on how to address any areas of concern when negotiating international agreements.