New York, New York; June 17, 2022 – NAS Senior Research Associate Neetu Arnold recently uncovered how the Texas A&M University System hid nearly $100 million in foreign funds from Russia and Qatar. In 2019, Texas A&M University became one of 19 universities under federal investigation by the Department of Education (ED) for failure to disclose foreign funds. But according to Neetu’s research, covered in the Wall Street Journal, Texas A&M did not disclose to the Education Department funds made to the system’s state agency Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES).
TEES focuses on research commercialization and has partnerships with entities across the world. TEES signed one deal worth 211,635,000 Russian Rubles (~$4 million in 2014 dollars) with Russian university Skoltech in 2014. The agency also signed eight contracts with the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF) between 2010 and 2019 worth ~$100 million.
“This is likely scratching the surface,” Neetu said. “During the previous administration, ED uncovered over $6.5 billion worth of undisclosed foreign gifts. As evidenced by Texas A&M’s ability to evade Section 117 requirements, there is likely much more concealed money to be found.”
According to TEES, it does not need to report foreign agreements to the Education Department because it is not an educational institution and does not act on behalf of the university. But Neetu’s research documents how the lines are blurred between the university and TEES. In addition, TEES deals often benefited the university and its branch campuses. Here were some of her findings:
- University officials often signed TEES contracts
- Based on the analysis of two QNRF agreements, TEES agreements were often worth more than contracts signed directly with the university
- The majority of research projects have Texas A&M faculty assigned as principal investigators
Those interested in our source documents, obtained by public information requests, can find them here. For a list of disclosed foreign gifts to American colleges and universities visit ED’s online portal.
Neetu continued: “The Biden Administration has worked to weaken oversight of foreign money flowing to American higher education institutions at the request of the American Council on Education, even as the FBI continues to warn of the leverage provided to foreign governments by such gifts.”
The National Association of Scholars advocates for more foreign gift transparency. We continue to recommend that universities, and related institutions, be required to report foreign funds. We also ask that the Department of Education require universities to list the names of donors and the purpose of the gift/contract and that the Biden Administration enforce already existing foreign gift disclosure law.
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If you would like more information about this issue, please contact Neetu Arnold at [email protected]. If you are interested in this topic, be sure the join NAS for an upcoming event on China's enduring influence on American higher education.