COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — The University of Missouri will end a nine-year partnership with the Confucius Institute in August because of changing federal guidelines for the program, university officials announced Wednesday.
The institute, which is mostly funded by the Chinese Ministry of Education, hosts lectures, trips and other events that promote Chinese culture. Visiting Chinese instructors also teach classes in Mandarin in the Columbia public school district.
Universities across the U.S. have opened Confucius Institutes, although some have closed them after critics raised concerns about the program's possible political influence in academics.
The U.S. State Department notified Missouri in July that it would begin requiring state-certified teachers in Mandarin to be in every classroom with Confucius Institute staff.
"While Missouri-certified Mandarin Chinese language teachers were in the classroom with CI staff, recruiting and supporting the necessary certified Chinese language teachers would be cost prohibitive, said Mary Stegmaier, interim vice provost for international programs.
Currently, 13 student interns with the institute teach Chinese language classes in Columbia public schools, with a full-time Missouri-certified teacher in each classroom. The district plans to continue offering Chinese and the university will work with the school district to ensure students will be able to continue Mandarin studies, the university said.
A bipartisan report from Congress in February 2019 urged U.S. colleges and universities to cut ties with the institutes, concluding that the partnerships give Chinese authorities too much control over U.S. programs. FBI Director Christopher Wray testified to Congress that the agency was monitoring Confucius Institutes, saying they had displayed "a fairly significant pattern of espionage."
The University of Missouri monitored the institute in Columbia closely and an audit found no evidence of espionage or wrongdoing, system President Mun Choi said in September 2019.
Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican, was one of the leading critics of the institutes. Hawley tweeted on Wednesday that he was pleased with the University of Missouri's decision.
“As the State Department warned Mizzou in July 2019, and as I have repeatedly stated, this program presented security risks for students and the university as a whole,” he said.