Oxford University Bars Donations From Huawei

By Holly Brockwell on at

Remember the feeling on the primary school playground when one of the popular kids decided you were persona non grata, and it felt like suddenly no one would be your friend ever again?

We reckon that's probably what it feels like to be Huawei on the world tech stage at the moment, as rejection after rejection pour in because of apparent security concerns.

The latest organisation to shun the Chinese tech manufacturer is Oxford University, which says it doesn't want any of Huawei's money for the foreseeable future. That means no donations, no research funding, not even a free branded keyring at the Freshers' Fair.

The decision is because of "public concerns raised in recent months surrounding UK partnerships with Huawei," like the warning about using Huawei's tech in the infrastructure for 5G, BT pulling Huawei's kit from EE's 5G network, and the international Five Eyes (which includes the UK)'s decision to "contain Huawei's global reach."

It sounds like Oxford's decision is based more on concern about PR than any specific worries about taking Huawei's money – presumably they don't want to be associated with the company when everyone else is cancelling it.

It also sounds like it's not intended to be a longstanding decision – Huawei has a lot of money, and UK academia needs a lot of money, so presumably the call to turn off the money tap is causing pain among the dreaming spires.

Says Oxford:

"We hope these matters can be resolved shortly and note Huawei’s own willingness to reassure governments about its role and activities. The university will continue with existing research contracts where funding from Huawei has already been received or committed.

We currently have two such ongoing projects, with a combined funding from Huawei of £692k. Both projects were approved under the university’s regulatory processes before the current levels of uncertainty arose."

The university also told its students it's OK to talk to Huawei, but not to reveal any secrets:

"If you are in contact with anyone from Huawei, do note that this decision doesn’t prevent you from maintaining a relationship with them but we would recommend that no confidential or proprietary information is discussed."

Ouch.

Huawei says it wasn't told of the decision, and suggested it's not based on evidence. It also emphasised its partnerships with other universities in the UK and its 1,500 UK employees.

Back in December, Huawei chairman Guo Ping complained of "incredibly unfair treatment" of the company by international organisations, and Chinese Ministry of National Defence spokesperson Wu Qian referred to the UK's caution as "deep-rooted pride and prejudice."