The future of former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s flagship $53 million China centre at the Australian National University is under a cloud after the institution ordered an external review.
In 2010, Mr Rudd handed his alma mater, the Australian National University, $35m as a foundation grant, and $18m for a new building to establish an Australian Centre on China in the World.
Mr Rudd said it would become the “pre-eminent global institution” for understanding contemporary China and urged for China to be understood beyond “the binary language of the Cold War era”.
At the time the way it was funded drew some criticism. “It is a good thing for the government to invest in China studies, but I can understand there are people at other universities who are concerned about the lack of process,” said Michael Wesley, then head of the Lowy Institute, in 2010.
The spend was part of $112.9m over four years allocated in the 2010-11 federal budget towards a “Commonwealth-Australian National University Strategic Relationship”. It also included funds to expand ANU’s Crawford School of Economics and Government and $17.3m to establish and support a National Security College at the university.
In a leaked email from July, Professor Wesley, who is now the head of ANU’s College of Asia & the Pacific, said the new review would consider “the future direction of the Centre on China in the World”.
“CIW has established a strong research program and public profile, but does not relate clearly to the wealth of other China-related research, teaching and outreach across the ANU. As the university considers the future direction of the Centre on China in the World, it believes it must couch this within a broader review of China studies at ANU.”
He said the probe would include international input.
“An external review panel comprising eminent international and Australian Sinologists will receive and review the taskforce’s report, and carry out a comprehensive review of CIW and China studies at ANU,” Dr Wesley said in the email.
“Some members of the review panel will make a site visit to ANU in mid-July. We anticipate it will present its report to the university by the end of August.”
The review will accept anonymous submissions until this Thursday.
Professor Wesley said the recruitment process for a new CIW director had been “paused” until the review was completed.
An ANU spokesman said yesterday the review was simply to ensure the quality of the centre.
By PRIMROSE RIORDAN