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US investigates Harvard and Yale over foreign funding from Saudi Arabia, China

An investigation has been launched into elite universities Harvard and Yale [Corbis/Getty]

Date of publication: 13 February, 2020

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The US Department of Education believes elite universities have been under reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts.

The United States has launched investigations into Harvard and Yale universities over the alleged failure to report foreign funding from countries such as China and Saudi Arabia.

The US Department of Education believes elite universities have been under reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign gifts and contracts, Reuters reported.

"This is about transparency. If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom," US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement. 

Education department records show US universities have received more than $6.6 billion in donations over the last thirty years from countries such as Qatar, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to a Reuters report.

The department is now saying "this sum may be significantly underestimated".

Yale University, based in Connecticut, may have missed reported at least $375 million in foreign donations over the past four years, the education department said.

Harvard University, based in Massachusetts, is also believed to have under reported foreign donations and contracts, the department said, but it did not give a dollar amount.

Harvard and Yale have not responded to the investigation's launch.

Chinese program

Two weeks earlier, US prosecutors charged a leading academic at Harvard University with hiding his alleged role in a Chinese government program that security officials say steals trade secrets.

The arrest of Charles Lieber, the chairman of Harvard's chemistry and chemical biology department, is the latest development in a long-running saga over suspected intellectual property theft.

US sleuths are investigating hundreds of cases of alleged theft by Chinese scientists working in or visiting the United States. 

Two other scientists, both Chinese nationals, were also charged, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Prosecutors allege that Lieber was paid $50,000 a month and received more than $1.5 million to set up a lab at Wuhan University of Technology.

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