Fox17 Nashville: Universities & Colleges Receiving Money from Foreign Governments 57_Fox17_foreign_govs_buying_influence_in_Tennessee_universities

August 18, 2023 12:46 PM



Universities in Tennessee have received $156 million from foreign governments since 1995, including tens of millions from Saudi Arabia and China. 


The records of foreign funds show that in the last three decades, entities in dozens of countries gave a collective $44 billion to higher education institutions in the U.S. 


Judicial Watch, a conservative group that files Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, won a federal lawsuit to get the funding made public.  


Before that, only some foreign funds given to American universities were publicly reported, including only some of the $5.2 billion given to higher education institutions by entities in Qatar, a country with established links to terrorist organizations. 


For instance, only a portion of the more than $500 million given to Texas A&M University — most of which came directly from the Qatar Foundation, an entity run by the government of Qatar — was reported. 


The funds from foreign countries pay for tuition for students from those nations, scholarships, fellowships and research, for establishing faculty positions, various programs and symposiums, diversity, equity and inclusion campaigns, and more. 


This foreign influence in higher education is worrisome given that three of the top donors across America are Qatar ($5.2 billion), Saudi Arabia ($3 billion) and China ($2.8 billion). England ($3.6 billion) and Canada ($3 billion) were also top contributors. 


While no universities in Tennessee received funds from Qatar, universities did receive $31 million from China and Saudi Arabia, two countries with massive human rights abuses. 


Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record, including torturing people, unfair trials that end in the death penalty and requiring male guardians for women. 


In China, people don’t have freedom of speech, or freedom to practice their religion of choice, they’re tortured, have forced abortions and forced sterilization, state-sponsored forced labor and more egregious human rights abuses


Saudi Arabia gave $27 million to higher education institutions in Tennessee — Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro ($18.2 million), University of Tennessee across all its campuses ($7.8 million) and Vanderbilt University in Nashville (less than $1 million). 


China gave $4 million — University of Tennessee $2.6 million and Middle Tennessee State University $1.4 million. 


Totals of $156 million from foreign governments to Tennessee institutions: 


  • Vanderbilt University ($90 million total) - $36.4 million from Germany, $21 million from Denmark, $9.3 million frum UAE, $8.9 million from United Kingdom, $5.4 million from Japan — another $8.9 million from 11 other countries 
  • University of Tennessee ($41 million total) - $7.8 million from Saudi Arabia, $3.9 million from Canada, $3 million from Turkey, $2.6 million from China, $2.3 million each from Japan, Ireland and Kuwait — another $17 million from 19 other countries 
  • Middle Tennessee State University ($22 million total) - $18.2 million from Saudi Arabia, $1.4 million from China, $2.5 million from Scotland 
  • The University of the South ($2.6 million total) - The Bahamas 
  • Pentecostal Theological Seminary ($300,000 total) - Indonesia 


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