The federal government will establish a special taskforce to crack down on foreign governments attempting to meddle in Australia's higher education sector amid rising concern about the influence of China on the nation's university campuses.
In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Education Minister Dan Tehan is expected to announce the formation of the University Foreign Interference Taskforce, made up of 50 per cent university officials, with the remaining members drawn from the nation's security agencies and the department of education.
The announcement comes after months of simmering tensions on campuses across the country, including in Canberra, where extra security guards were put in place at the Australian National University over clashes between students who back democracy in Hong Kong and pro-Beijing regime students.
China has also been named the chief suspect behind a massive data hack on the ANU revealed in June. That attack exposed the personal banking, tax and academic details of thousands of staff and students going back 19 years.
Mr Tehan will tell the Press Club the taskforce will focus on "protecting against deception, undue influence, unauthorised disclosure or disruption to research", as well as improving the cyber defences of the nation's universities.
Collaboration with foreign interests will also come under the microscope to ensure it doesn't harm Australia's interests, and a research and intellectual property working group will work to protect academic freedom.
The taskforce will also have a role in educating the broader community on improving research and cyber resilience.
"This process will complement work currently under way by the group involving Defence and other relevant agencies, universities and industry," Mr Tehan will say.
Months of tensions between Hong Kong and Beijing over a controversial extradition law have spilled over onto Australian campuses, and explosive comments from Liberal MP Andrew Hastie earlier this month comparing the rise of China to the rise of Nazi Germany further fuelled heated national debate.
Sydney University vice-chancellor Michael Spence this week warned the country was at risk of veering towards a "white Australia" mindset as the debate about China's influence on Australian universities intensified.
However, Mr Tehan downplayed concerns that Australian universities have become too reliant on income from overseas - and in particular Chinese - students, even after analysis by the Centre for Independent Studies found that, in some lectures, almost nine out of 10 students are from overseas.
Per capita, Australia has more international students than any other nation at 25 per cent, with 10 per cent coming from China.